Perspective Of Yet Another Night Owl

Rose Hall Plantation & The White Witch
July 27, 2007, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Books, Hauntings, Jamaica, Legends, Love, Montego Bay, Photos, Travel

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On Tuesday, July 17, 2007, we had another tour planned with our driver Winston.  This day we planned to head towards Ocho Rios and see the sights along the way.  Included in this day trip were Rose Hall Plantation, Columbus Park and Dunns River Falls.  I enjoyed our visit to Rose Hall so much that I felt it deserved it’s own post. (See Dunns River Falls post and video here: )

The history of the Great House: The house was begun by George Ash, an English planter, in 1750 and completed in 1780 by John Palmer, a wealthy British planter.  This was a 6,600-acre plantation, and had more than 2,000 slaves.  At the time, it was considerably larger than today. Two additional wings, originally connected to the main house by open breezeways, were never rebuilt. The Great House collapsed into ruins after abandonment that lasted more than 130 years.  The house was later restored by members of the Delaware-based Rollins family, owners of the near by Ritz-Carlton, in 1966 and 1971  Listen carefully to the guide.  She will probably be in a plaid-patterned dress that emulates costumes standard for that generation. The tale of sexual intrigue, insanity, and murder is one of the hottest celebrity exposés in Jamaica. The dark and brooding Annie’s Pub is on the building’s ground floor in the old dungeon.  Enjoy a rum-laced “witches brew” and Johnny Cash songs, including the Ballad of Annie Palmer.

BALLAD OF ANNIE PALMER by Johnny Cash (in part)

On the Island of Jamaica quite a long long time ago
At Rose Hall Plantation where the ocean breezes blow
Lived a girl named Annie Palmer the mistress of the place
And the slaves all lived in fear to see a frown on Annie’s face
Where’s your husband Annie where’s number two and three
Are they sleeping neath the palms beside the Caribbean Sea
At night I hear you ridin’ and I hear your lovers call
And still can feel your presence round the great house at Rose Hall hmm
Well if you should ever go to see the great house at Rose Hall
There’s expensive chairs and china and great paintings on the wall
They’ll show you Annie’s sittingroom and the whipping post outside
But they won’t let you see the room where Annie’s husbands died
Where’s your husband Annie…

The Legend: The legend surrounding Rose Hall and its infamous owner, Annie Palmer, also known as “The White Witch of Rose Hall,” has fascinated generations of island natives and visitors alike.  The very striking and curious story is founded on fact, and includes all the elements of a thrilling novel.  You have a beautiful heroine, unrequited love, Obeah magic (voodoo)  and revenge.  The romantic setting is a gracious sugar cane plantation in the hills of Jamaica.

The most impressive building on the property is the Great House.  It was finished in 1770 by John Palmer and his wife, Rosa.  Hence the sugar and rum plantation’s name.  It is said that the original mistress of the Great House was kind hearted and well liked.  The couple passed away in 1790 and the property went through many hands until finally ending up the residence of John Palmer’s grand nephew, John Rose Palmer.

The story is that Annie came to Kingston, Jamaica from Haiti where her parents had taken her as a young girl.  Her Hatian nurse (Voodoo Priestess) taught her the ways of Obeah magic as she was growing up.  After her parents and beloved nurse passed away, Annie did not want to return to England.  She settled on Jamaica where she met John Rose Palmer.  In 1820, John Rose Palmer married, Annie, the beautiful but feisty teen-aged English girl.  John Palmer did not know that his young wife, Annie, possessed the powers of Obeah magic, nor did he know that those black magic powers would eventually lead to his demise. During her reign as mistress of the plantation, Annie did away with John Rose Palmer, as well as two more husbands and countless slave lovers.  It is said that Annie poisoned John Palmer after he caught her with a slave lover.  Annie claimed that all 3 of her husbands, whom died mysteriously, died of mortal illnesses.  Annie would place the rooms in which they died under quarentine and had slaves bury the bodies near the sea.  The slaves that buried her husbands mysteriously disappeared after the burials.  It is said that Annie Palmer had them killed to keep the actual causes of her husbands’ deaths a secret.  Dead men will tell no tales.

The story The White Witch of Rose Hall by Herbert G. de Lisser, begins after Annie has done away with her three husbands and numerous lovers.  A wealthy Englishman by the name of Robert Rutherford arrives from England to learn the planter’s business from the bottom.  It is Rutherford’s journal of his stay at Rose Hall that gives the most accurate account of the happenings of late 1831.  Rutherford arrives on an early December morning in 1831.  He is met by the other bookkeeper overseer on the plantation upon his arrival and shown to his quarters.  He is introduced to Millicent, a free educated black woman, who wishes to be his half-caste housekeeper.  

Annie however, has different plans for Rutherford.   He becomes an overseer at Rose Hall and Annie takes a violent fancy to him, making him her lover.  Rutherford finds Annie extremely attractive and tells Annie he is in love with her, all the while being embarrassed by the attentions of Millicent and his feelings of love for Millie, too.  Millie urges Rutherford, with some success, to take part in the West Indian habits and take her for his “wife”, when suddenly Annie Palmer appears.  Angered that Rutherford and Millie were in a romantic embrace, Annie threatens to whip Millie.  Millicent defies Annie and threatens her with the powers of Takoo, her grandfather, an Obeah man.  Annie nearly lashes Millie with her riding crop, only to be stopped by Rutherford and Takoo, and orders Millie to leave the plantation immediately with her grandfather, never to return.  Mrs. Palmer, herself skilled in Obeah magic, sneaks off in the middle of the night towards Montego Bay to find Millicent.  Once Annie finds her, she puts a spell on the girl, which Takoo’s rites, shattered by Annie’s stronger black magic, are powerless to remove, bringing forth Millicent’s untimely death.

Of course, the meting out of such undeserved cruelty had its price: in 1831, Annie was found dead in her bedroom at The Great House, only about a month after Rutherford’s arrival. As the story goes, Takoo and some of Annie’s slaves, took revenge upon Annie, strangling her while she slept in her bed.  Annie Palmer was buried on the grounds of Rose Hall in a grave marked with crosses.  There are no photos of Annie Palmer, as she was such an evil woman, the slaves burnt all photos of her, not burning everything she owned for fear of her return from the grave.  She was said to have been a short woman, only 4’11” with dark hair and quite attractive.   To this day there are those who claim to see her ghost wandering the halls of the Great House.



14 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I am a huge Johnny Cash Fan but never knew associated the two until reading the history. kudos

Comment by ghostsickness

I visited Rose Hall a year or so prior to its restoration. Access to it then was down a long dirt road that went through massive sugar cane fields. When I saw the building it had no roof and the upper floors had collapsed, leaving pretty much nothing but the exterior walls. I would love to know how the “restoration” was accomplished as few if any building details remained when I walked through the building. I suspect what is now shown to visitors is a reconstruction of the building as it MIGHT have looked in when in use.

I’d note as well that the comment, “There are no photos of Annie Palmer, as she was such an evil woman, the slaves burnt all photos of her” is a fabrication. Her death predated the advent of even the Daguerreotype by a good 8 years!

Comment by Virginia

Virginia, the restoration was not exact, as I explained above under “The history of the Great House”. The tour guides do tell you this, as well as describe to you what the original plantation Great House looked like with the additional wings. I would say you are correct about “photographs” of Annie. I was told was that there were no paintings or sketches of Annie, due to the slaves burning them. My statement saying “no photos of Annie” was in error, probably just showing my age.

Comment by Krysti

yes, i would like to know how did they all know what annie looked like with out a picture? how did the owner who brought white rose, know what the house look like back then? then how did they found the old things that belong to the house? come on. then who is telling these old tales about lost graves that was over 200 yrs.ago? when things are old they should be left alone. thats the fun part of going to the old sites. or dig up the grounds on it, to see if these tales are true. how do they know what annies beds with each husband look like? they don’t!!!! ty

Comment by billie greenhaw

yea, why do they show the house if its not the same? they should had let it die with the dead ones on the grounds. no one ever will know the true stories!!!

Comment by okla.

Actually I just watched a documentary show on sci fi -comes on late wednesday nights, and they did an episode about the ‘white witch’ of rose hall and actually had a photograph of her, she wasn’t dark haired, was actually red headed (had her hair pulled back) with very fair skin. It also showed them doing a voodoo ceremony over her grave. It was neat.

Comment by paranormalbeauty

Interesting. Very Interesting, Indeed.

Comment by Coco

I was there recently and saw a book, which I failed to buy about the restoration project. There was a photo of a grave marker with her name on it, yet I cant seem to find it online. Would you know where I might find it?

Comment by Michael

This costume fit perfectly, and was made to be adjustable by a flattering design of the lace-up bodice. The sleeves gave the illusion of coverage without being hot (I’m in a warm climate.) the hat was way too small, sized for a child’s head, but I just added a piece of fabric to make it bigger – because it makes the whole costume!

Comment by Joe

Woah this blog is wonderful i really like reading your posts. Keep up the great paintings! You understand, many individuals are searching around for this information, you can help them greatly.

Comment by discount shopping online

This is a great blog! OMG guys, there’s going to be a movie about this story. I found the Facebook page here. Looks exciting!

Comment by Rocks

I don’t know about the link you posted, but there is this one:

Comment by Night Owl Mom

I read your article, and must say Winston is the greatest tour guide in Jamaica. We went with 4 other couples, and Winston showed us things ogg your normal tour.

Comment by Barbara

Winston was an amazing driver and tour guide! I wish we were able to visit again, but now my kids are in college and that makes trips to Jamaica a little on the expensive side for us now.

Comment by Night Owl Mom

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