Rose Hall is the most famous and legendary great house on Jamaica. The subject of numerous dark novels, one of which was the H. G. de Lisser “White Witch of Rose Hall”. The great house was built from 1778 to 1790 by John Palmer, a wealthy British planter. It was a 6,521-acre plantation, with more than 2,000 slaves.
Annie Palmer, wife of the builder’s grandnephew, became the focal point of fiction and fact. Called “Infamous Annie,” she was said to be a practitioner of witchcraft. She took slaves as lovers and then killed them off (usually by poisoning) when she was tired of them. Servants called her “the Obeah woman” (Obeah is Jamaican for voodoo). Annie was said to have murdered several of her husbands in their sleep and eventually suffered the same fate herself.
Born in 1802 in England of half-English, half-Irish stock, she had moved to Haiti with her merchant parents when she was 10. When they died soon after from yellow fever, she was adopted by her Haitian nanny, who was rumored to be a voodoo priestess who educated her young charge in the arts of the occult. When the nanny died, the young white woman came to Jamaica in search of a husband.
She found and married a wealthy planter named John Palmer. Within months after the marriage, her husband discovered her affair with a young slave. It is said that he is said to have beaten her with a horse whip. John Palmer died that night and rumors were rampant that his young wife had poisoned him in revenge.
Now a widow, Annie Palmer began a reign of terror at Rose Hall. Fearing her slave lover might blackmail her, she had him tied, gagged, and flogged to death. Legend says that she then began to have affairs with one slave after another. however she was fickle and when her they bored her, she had them killed.
Partly because of her training in the occult arts during a childhood spent in Haiti, her servants called her the “Obeah (voodoo) woman,” the daughter of the devil, and “the White Witch of Rose Hall.”
When Ms. Palmer was found strangled in her bed in 1831, evidence surfaced that the murderer was Takoo, a freed slave seeking vengeance for a curse that Annie had placed on his granddaughter.
Evidence of the building being haunted grew stronger as a succession of tragedies befell most of the later owners of the Rose Hall estate. Long in ruins, the house has now been restored and is now a local attraction.