Historical legends explored at Rose Hall, Jamaica
As a child my parents bought me a book about the White Witch of Rose Hall in Jamaica by Herbert G. de Lisser.
It’s a fascinating story about Annie Palmer, the former English owner of a plantation in Jamaica and her dictatorship over the lives of the slaves working on her land. There’s even a song written about the legend called “The Ballad of Annie Palmer” recorded by Johnny Cash.One of the main focus of the book is her personal relationships (or lack of) with several husbands and slave lovers in her relatively short life (she died in her early 30’s). At the age of 18 she moved to Jamaica in search of a rich husband as a means to acquiring her fortune. She met and married John Palmer in 1820, the owner of the Rose Hall estate which included the great house and a 7,000 acre sugar plantation with 2,000 slaves.
Located a few minutes drive from the touristic scene of Montego Bay, the Georgian mansion was built in the 1770s and restored in the 1960s. With stunning views to the coast of Jamaica and a location on the main highway, it’s hard to imagine that this house stands as a historical representation of the experiences of the slaves of the land.
Visitors to the house are not allowed to explore on their own. The only option is a paid tour provided by a guide of the house at a cost of around $20 USD per adult.
The house is decorated with silk wallpaper printed with palms and birds, ornamented with chandeliers and furnished with mostly European antiques.
Throughout the tour the guide kept us all on the edge of our seat with tales of the frightful Palmer and her controlling ways of the slaves that worked the land.
Her cruel behaviour along with rumours of her Voodoo rituals earned her the name “The White Witch of Rose Hall”. She was renown for the regular torture and killings that took place when she became displeased with her slaves and there is even suspicion that she killed each of her husbands whenever she became weary of them, thus securing her wealth.
It’s an interesting legend and one that begs the question of whether the house remains haunted. To this day visitors have commented on scary experiences in the house by the spirit of Annie Palmer. From hearing footsteps to seeing shadows and faces resembling Palmer in the mirror. The thought alone did keep me on my toes as we moved from room to room.
It is said that the subsequent owners of the Rose Hall estate suffered early and tragic deaths, leading to the estate being unoccupied for over 130 years.
The finale of the tour is at the final resting place of the White Witch of Rose Hall, the tomb of Annie Palmer.
After such a prolonged visit to the house, I found the experience of the Great House to be informative and to have met my expectations. The tour lasts for around 1.5 hours and the guides are interesting and knowledgeable about the history of the house, prepared to answer all questions.
If you prefer a spooky option then our guide did recommend that the evening tour is particularly thrilling!