'How Annie Palmer became known as the White Witch of Rose Hall.' by Stacy Ann Gordon.
- Duration: 2 Hours (approx.)
- Product code: PKNXVX
There is a story, a legend really, often told by the Jamaican people to their children and to anyone who will listen. A story of intrigue, murder, romance and even betrayal. This is the story of Annie Palmer, the infamous owner of the Rose Hall estate. The folklore of Annie Palmer has been told and retold countless times, but in this blog I seek to give a clear picture about this lady: who she was, her motivation and how she became known to Jamaicans as the White Witch of Rose Hall.
Annie Palmer was born Annie Mae Patterson, the daughter of an English mother and an Irish father1, who decided to move to Haiti (then called St. Domingue), during the peak of its economic prosperity (1754 to the 1780s).2 The Pattersons seeking economic gain, fled to the island during a time when there was political upheaval in Europe (The Seven Year's War, 1754-1763)3 but social and economic opulence in the colony.4 St. Domingue was known as the 'Pearl of the Antilles'.5 It was a prolific exporter of sugar, coffee, indigo and cotton, notably it was the largest exporter of raw and refined sugar to Europe.6 Its only competitive rival was Jamaica.7 Annie was just ten years old when she arrived in St. Domingue, but she was a precocious child and quickly settled into her new life in the French colony.8 There she became fascinated with all aspects of her new home and befriended her Haitian nanny, who taught her the art of Voodoo.9 You see Annie wanted control of her surroundings and she sought it. She was still young when her parents died and left her in a hostile environment. As Annie grew up St. Domingue experienced two slave rebellions (1791-1804).10 There was uncertainty and peril every where. The slaves at this time freely roamed the streets, and with their hearts filled with revenge, would not have a second thought about hurting or killing a white woman.11 It is possible that this may have been the origin of the disdain Annie felt for the slaves on the Rose Hall plantation. Her only guide was a mulatto woman who taught Annie how to become a master of all the dark arts including seduction.12 Annie was a very beautiful young woman with a delicate, petite frame;13 long flowing hair, penetrating brown eyes and creamy white skin.14 Her nanny who was alleged to be a Voodoo queen taught her how to use her beauty and wit to get what she wanted. We know that Annie was an avid pupil!
After her surrogate mother's death she came to Jamaica looking to make her fortune here.15 Jamaica, as a British colony, like St. Domingue, was the jewel in its colonial master's cap,16 and Annie also wanted to cash in on its wealth. No sooner had she arrived, she met John Palmer, the sole heir to the Rose Hall Estate.17 Completely smitten by her beauty and charm, he proposed marriage to her which she accepted. It would have been wonderful if Annie's story had ended here: as a fairy tale. For Annie was happy and for awhile it seemed she was getting all she ever wanted. She along with her husband, managed an estate with over two thousand slaves, a marvelous house worth Ł30,000,18 and 7, 000 acres of prime sugar plantation land.19 She loved riding across the estate and viewing the operations of the plantation. At times she could be seen standing on her balcony monitoring the slaves and their daily chores.20 Yes, she was happy...for awhile. It was only a couple months after their wedding that Annie became bored with her husband, and the life of a little house wife. She sought other amusement, taking male slaves for romps in her bedroom. More and more her lust for the slave men grew until it could no longer be hidden: her husband caught her in the act of adultery and whipped her with a riding crop.21 Enraged by this embarrassment, Annie vowed she would take her revenge, and never again would any man have any control over her! At the right moment she slipped poison into his coffee and killed him then she moved swiftly to take over the operations of the estate.22
Now she was free! She could do whatever she wanted, with whomever pleased her. Annie married twice afterwards, but they could not satisfy her lecherous desires; she quickly killed them and inherited their wealth. It is said all three husbands' bodies were buried somewhere on the Rose Hall estate.23 Meanwhile her bed was never empty, for she often enticed many slaves to her bed. She was a jealous lover. If she felt her lovers looked at a slave girl they were severely punished, even killed. In fact, Annie could be heard shouting orders to her slaves from her balcony and would order the torture and death of any who crossed her.24 Obsessed with retaining power it is alleged that she performed rituals using the bones of babies she murdered.25 The rumours were that she often used her potions and magic charms to woo lovers to her bed and control the slaves.26 She ruled with fear; her control otherworldy, she was called the White Witch of Rose Hall.
It seemed as if nothing could stop her, but one day she went too far. She became infatuated with a young English
bookkeeper, who only had eyes for young girl named Millicent, the granddaughter of Takoo, the local obeahman.27
Jealous and unable to win him for herself, Annie put a curse on Millicent which caused her to painfully wither and die.28 Takoo wanted vengence, so he along with a group of slaves stormed the great house, attacked her in her bedroom and strangled her to death.29 She was quickly buried in a very deep grave and ritual performed to prevent her spirit from rising.30 The slaves however claimed it was not done correctly. For every night they could here the voice of Annie Palmer along the corridors, and her spirit walking the rooms of the great house.31 Thus begins the legend of Annie Palmer's ghost, who persons to this day claim to have seen roaming the property. It was claimed that her ghost is responsible for their sudden and mysterious deaths of the proprietors who immediately took over the property.32 Employees of the newly refurbished Rose Hall great house say they feel her presence and eyewitnesses claim she has been spotted riding her black horse across the estate.33
What do you think: Is Annie still seeking to be in control? Would you like to see her ghost too? Why not take the Rose Hall Haunted House Night Tour hosted by El Sol Vida. As part of their fun tour package you will get access to the great house and see where Annie stood on her balcony. You'll get to see the great house as it was when Annie was alive.
Go see for yourself, maybe you'll catch a glimpse of her!
Included in Tours
- All Admission Fees
- English Tour Guide at The Rose Hall Great House
- Hotel Pick up and Drop off (Montego Bay Hotels)
Excluded from Tours
- Meals and Drinks
- Gratuity (Optional)
- Pick up from Falmouth Hotels & The Grand Palladium Hotel (Available as an optional add on)
- Confirmation will be received at time of booking
- A Minimum of 2 Adults required per reservation.
- Children must be accompanied by an adult
- Dress code is smart casual