Great House Rose Hall

                                                       Great House Rose Hall

Great House of Rose Hall

 

Once upon a time, long ago on the Island of Jamaica lived a woman named Annie Palmer. Legend has it that Annie Patterson came from Haiti and lived in the Great House on the Plantation of Rose Hall Montego Bay. There are many versions to the magical mystery of Annie Palmer. The story as we have come to know it surrounds the Great House of Rose Hall. The fictional tale took place in the mid-1700s. The infamous tale started when an Englishman by the name of Henry Fanning bought a piece of land in Montego Bay. Mr. Fanning’s whole intention was to build a lavish home and start his own plantation. He could cultivate his crop mainly sugarcane which was the booming business during those times.

During this period, he was living with a woman by the name of Rose Kelly whom intended to marry. However, soon after his marriage to Ms. Kelly, Henry Fanning died. As complicated as it may have been, Ms. Kelly did not waste much time, she married her second husband. After their marriage, he completed the construction of this luxurious home and they named the place the Great House of Rose Hall Plantation. The Great House was built in the style of an English Georgian Architecture and sits on a lot which measures about 650 acres.

 

Rose Hall Plantation, Montego Bay Jamaica

                           Rose Hall Plantation, Montego Bay Jamaica

Wealth and Power

 

These mansion style homes were often referred to as the great house. This house was one of roughly about 700 built during the 1700s in Jamaica. It was a way for their owners to show off their wealth and power.  Some of the lavish features of the gigantic size of the house included 12 bedrooms, 365 windows and 52 doors along those lines. Unfortunate for Ms. Kelly, husband number two died soon after Rose Hall was completed and so he did not have much time to enjoy the mansion. Incidentally, the majority of these mansions in Jamaica were burnt to the ground during the Slave Rebellion of 1831. The rebellion was led by one of Jamaica’s National Heroes Samuel Sharpe. The slave revolt and dissatisfaction surrounded their grievances and refusal to work on Christmas Day along with other deplorable working conditions.

Great House

                                                     Great House Plantation

Rose Kelly married John Palmer

Soon after the second husband’s death, Ms. Kelly married her third husband.  While the actual date of the marriage remains cloudy, the story that was passed along was that her third husband like the previous two did not live long. According to numerous sources, he used plenty of her fortune before dying in 1767. After losing three husbands in a relatively short period, Ms Rose Kelly did not waste much time. Within a year, her fourth husband was up and ready to jump the broom. She married John Palmer.  Only this time, her fourth husband John Palmer outlived her. Rose Kelly passed away and now it was John Palmer left to run Rose Hall. John lived there until he died. At the time, Palmer had two sons living in England and they were in line to inherit the plantation but they were not interested in the property.

 

However, who was interested in the property was his nephew of the same name, John Rose Palmer. In 1818, his nephew moved to Jamaica and took over the property. After moving to Jamaica, John Rose Palmer married Annie Patterson. According to the legendary story about the “White Witch” of Rose Hall and its ghostly scary history, it’s all related to Annie Patterson.

Before moving to Jamaica according to the tale, Ms Patterson and her parents moved to Haiti while she was at the tender age of ten. Her parents who were of Irish descent had made a decision to move to Haiti. After moving to Haiti, they needed help with little Annie and made the decision to hired a Nanny. As history has it, the Nanny they chose to babysit their child after moving to Haiti happened to practice witchcraft. To further complicate matters, Annie parent’s died not long after arriving in Haiti. The cause of her parent’s death was from a disease carried and transferred by mosquitoes known to all as Yellow Fever. This disease was part of an epidemic outbreak in the Caribbean in the 1790s. Similarly, the epidemic outbreak had also affected the United States about 100 years earlier in the 1690s.

Great House Plantation

                                           Great House Plantation

Voodoo and Witchcraft

 

Following the death of her parents, and living in a foreign country with no family, Annie was taken in by her nanny. At the same time as Annie was living with her Nanny, the nanny was known for practicing voodoo and witchcraft. One can only imagine, that it’s only practical to think that living in that environment would naturally trigger the oldest adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” So it’s fair to say that Annie Patterson grew up knowing witchcraft from the age of about ten years old. She lived with her Nanny until she was eighteen years old then her nanny passed away. At the age of eighteen, Annie moved to Jamaica West Indies to find a husband.

As legend has it, after Annie moved to Jamaica, she met John Rose Palmer. He was now the new owner of Rose Hall. The tale seemingly takes place back in the 18th Century on or around 1820 – 1825’ish as it was told. So ever since the early 1750s when Rose Hall first came into existence, it has always been surrounded by ghostly unexplained stories. Shortly after meeting John Rose Palmer, Annie married him in 1820. She was believed to be a woman of immortal status and as a result, that made her fearful on the plantation.

Annie’s Evil Ways

Throughout the years following her marriage to John, Annie developed or displayed an evil disposition towards the servants working in the home. One variation of the ways in which her treatments towards the servant were described is that Annie would have them whistle while serving the food. The whistling was to ensure that the servants would not eat any of the food. Meanwhile the servants made sure they whistle because they feared Annie and was scared to death for their lives as legend has it. Annie’s evil disposition did not stop with the servants working in the house but the fear of her carried over onto the slaves who worked in the field.

Myth has it that while her husband was out on the plantation and moving around town, Annie was using her male slaves as her sex slaves. She would invite the slaves into her quarter to become her lover. The love charade with the slaves against her husband continued until of course one day her husband caught her with one of her slave lovers. Annie did not known what the consequence would be for sleeping with the slaves but chances are it would not be good.

John Palmer found dead

John Palmer as the tale goes beat Annie with a whip. The flagging would show Annie who is the boss, as well as satisfy his embarrassment and disappointment in her. A husband beating his wife was also the norm as well as the stereotypical expectation in the 1700s. But what Mr. Palmer did not know was that he was not dealing with the normal stereotypical woman. The story went on to say that the very next day after whipping Annie, John Palmer was found dead. The presumption of his death was the result of being poisoned by none other than his wife.

Ann Palmer Terrorize and demonize the Plantation

The Rose Hall experience became even more eventful and far fetch, even for the imagination. The tale went on to say that after the death of Annie’s husband John Palmer, she turned up her aggression. She was terrorizing and demonizing everyone on the plantation as well as all those who came into her inner circle. The story says that Annie Palmer was killing everyone she had any dispute with. The fable was told that she killed many slaves along with her slave lovers after she was tired of them. In general Annie used her voodoo practice to torment and harass all the people she thought was against her.

Through it all, Annie Married a second and a third husband who both died. Thereafter, Annie Palmer was given the names, “The Wicked Witch of Rose Hall and The White Witch of Rose Hall”. The parable states that she married both husbands then ending up killing them. After their death, Annie would take over all their assets to further enrich her selfish ways. Interestingly enough, the myth says that Annie fell in love with an Englishman who was in love with someone else. Annie did not take the rejection of her professed love lightly.

The Lady and the Englishman

To further complicate matters, the lady that the Englishman was in love with was related to one of Annie’s slave lover. The name of her slave lover was Takoo and the young lady was his niece. Legend has it that Annie was furious about being rejected and seeks revenge on Takoo’s niece. The way the story was told was that Annie cast a spell on Takoo’s niece. His niece died as a result of the spell. The story has it that Takoo was outrageously angry after learning of the death of his niece. Once he found out that it was Annie who killed her, he reached his boiling point and there was no stopping him.

It was written that Takoo strangled Annie causing the death of the infamous White Witch of Rose Hall.  Was the death of Annie putting her out of her misery or was it that everyone’s fear of her would be put to rest now that her spirit is gone? Would it be the last time all the people on the plantation and the surrounding areas would hear of the wicked witch and her dastardly deeds?

Her spirit was buried

Well, that was the hope and quite the intention based on the steps that were taken following Annie’s death. The first step to do away with her spirit once and for all was that Takoo buried her in a grave that was much deeper than the normal depth. A second step that was taken to rid the surroundings of   Annie’s spirit was that leading up to the burial, Takoo staged a voodoo ritual funeral service. This type of voodoo observance was intended to keep the spirit in the grave. As the story was told, through it all, the myth and legend of Annie’s spirit still managed to escape the depth of her grave.

According to folklore and numerous tales, her ghostly spirit continues to wander around the Plantation of Rose Hall. Her death did not relief the fear which the slaves had of Annie. It was said that they were still threaten by her and still felt her presence.  As a result of these encounters the fiction of Annie Palmer of the Great House of Rose Hall and her wicked ways made her famous. Due to the notoriety of the tale of Anne Palmer of Rose Hall, her story traveled far and wide. The story reached to the height of American Singer and Songwriter Johnny Cash. Cash eventually wrote a ballad about the life of Annie Palmer. “The Ballard of Annie Palmer”, told the story about Annie Palmer’s life and supposedly her three husbands who they say were buried under the palm trees near the Caribbean Sea.

Annie Palmer story

So while the Annie Palmer story and The Great House of Rose Hall Plantation continues to be a major tourist attraction, an American writer Benjamin Radford says not so fast. There was no such tale and the story of Annie Palmer derived from a novel titled, “The White Witch of Rosehall”, written by Herbert G. Lisser in 1929. Over the years, Radford skepticism about these magical mysteries of Annie Palmer and her unexplained urban legend has been carefully and critically analyzed by him. Through his investigation in 2007 he claimed to have found evidence that the Annie Palmer ghost stories could not be true. According to Benjamin Radford, the “ghost photos” taken at Rose Hall were camera artifacts and reflected flashes, not ghost. While Mr. Radford could not say why people could have created such fictional character, he stands by his investigation that the story is simply that, “A Story.”

The Great House was rebuilt and restored in the 1960s. Today the house is decorated with expensive furniture and china. There are also expensive paintings on the wall. On the plantation you can find that sugar cane and tomatoes are grown. The Annie Palmer folklore has haunted Jamaican school children over the years. As children, we would take school trips to Rose Hall. Back then the whole Annie Palmer story would frighten and scare us.

Experience Rose Hall

Visitors are encouraged to experience Rose Hall personally on their next trip to Jamaica. Take a trip to what is now a Heritage Site in Montego Bay and decide for yourself. You can get a complete tour of the mansion. There you can experience from Annie’s sitting room all the way to her whipping pole outside. Once you visit Rose Hall you can reach your own conclusion of this contradictory and confusing tale of Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rose Hall.