When most people think of Jamaica it conjures up images of beautiful beaches and warm sunshine. Not many of us, if any, would think of chilling tales that deal with insanity and murder. But, that exactly what you’ll remember after you learn about Jamaica’s White Witch of Rose Hall.
Rose Hall is located just east of Montego Bay in the heart of Jamaica. It was built in the 1770s and became one of the most grand, and most infamous, sugar cane plantations in the country. The Georgian architecture set atop a rolling hill that provides beautiful views of the country side will beguile you into thinking this is a true paradise. But, the history held within these walls makes it far more terrifying than the rambling flowers and gentle mimosa trees would have you first believe.
The day was already dreary when we arrived with rain falling in scattered patterns as we came up to the manor. The home seemed to watch us as we approached and we couldn’t help but dwell on the events that had taken place there. The entrance alone was enough to spook a traveler. The cavernous, stone corridor (we learned moments later) lead into the former dungeon and standing within it, even though it has been transformed into a traveler’s pub, was very somber.
Our guide began telling us the story of Rose Hall and the White Witch that resided there…
Annie Palmer was a petite young woman (4’11” to be precise) with a child’s face. She was born to English parents while they lived in Haiti and was raised by a Haitian maid. This maid was later found out to be a voodoo priestess and, wanting to pass on her skills, taught Annie everything she knew.
In 1820 Annie moved to Jamaica and married John Palmer, the owner of Rose Hall plantation. The couple lived in married bliss…for a while. In 1827 Annie poisoned John by placing arsenic in his coffee. She instructed the slaves to remove his body by way of a secret underground tunnel that led from the dungeon to the outside grounds.
During the next several years Annie married twice more. She strangled her second husband in his bed. Her third husband was not so lucky and was stabbed to death by the small, pretty Annie. She killed each man in a separate bedroom and, after having the slaves remove their bodies, sealed up each room and claimed yellow fever had taken the men so that no one would venture into their quarters to investigate the deaths. During this time she also took many slave lovers which she also killed one by one. Each victim eventually carried down the long, dark passage way to their unmarked burial.
Over the years that these events took place Annie also became increasingly cruel toward the over 1,000 slaves held there. She would stand on her private balcony that overlooked the slave yard at the back of the house and ‘enjoy’ the punishments her foremen inflicted on the slaves; often joining in herself with a whip or other weapon. She had giant bear traps set at the perimeter of the grounds so that if a slave attempted escape they would be caught within the metal jaws.
But the slaves knew of her voodoo practices and were too afraid to attempt escape. One such slave became her longest lover and confidant for many years; even staying within the house along with Annie and assisting her with voodoo rituals. It came to be that Annie fell in love with a new man, but he did not love her in return. Instead, he became attached to the niece of Annie’s slave lover. When Annie found out she became enraged and killed the girl. When her slave lover found out his niece had been murdered by Annie’s own hand he crept into her room and strangled her in her sleep. The slaves, fearing she would use her voodoo to return and take revenge, burned all of Annie’s personal belongings and fled the plantation.
Annie Palmer: the murderess with a child’s face
Many years after, the house was purchased by a new family but they did not stay long. Their housekeeper mysteriously fell to her death from Annie’s balcony. The family fled the home and declared it haunted. To this day travelers and psychics come from around the world to see if they can catch a glimpse of Annie in her bed’s headboard; rumored to show her face when photographed. Or to spend the night in the house and experience the cries of nonexistent babies that are said to come from her first husband’s bedroom in the wee hours.
What drove such a sweet faced lady to murder countless men? It is now thought that Annie’s continued use of lead cups, plates and other eating utensils created lead poisoning which ate away at her brain – causing her to go insane. But we will never know what really motivated the White Witch of Rose Hall.
About the Author: Kenda Smith is a consumer and travel blogger. She lives in Worcester, Massachusetts with her husband and two children. Visit Her Site | Follow on Twitter
This chilling tale is sponsored by the Jamaican Tourist Board – “Once You Go, You Know.”