The legendary Rose Hall is the most famous great house on Jamaica. The subject of at least a dozen Gothic novels, it was immortalized in the H. G. de Lisser book White Witch of Rose Hall. The house was built from 1778 to 1790 by John Palmer, a wealthy British planter. At its peak, this was a 2,640-hectare (6,521-acre) plantation, with more than 2,000 slaves. However, it was Annie Palmer, wife of the builder's grandnephew, who became the focal point of fiction and fact. Called "Infamous Annie," she was said to have dabbled in witchcraft. She took slaves as lovers and then killed them off when they bored her. Servants called her the "Obeah woman" (Obeah is Jamaican for voodoo). Annie was said to have murdered several of her husbands while they slept and eventually suffered the same fate herself. Long in ruins, the house has now been restored. Annie's Pub is on the ground floor.
The White Witch of Rose Hall -- Annie Mae Paterson, a beautiful 18-year-old spitfire measuring only 4' 11" tall, arrived at the Rose Hall Great House near Montego Bay on March 28, 1820, to take up residence with her new husband, the Honorable John Rose Palmer. The house was said to affect her badly from the moment she entered it. 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, husband-hunting.
Several months after her marriage, when her husband discovered her affair with a young slave, he is said to have beaten her with a riding whip. John Palmer died that night. Before long, rumors were swirling that his young wife had poisoned his coffee.
With her husband buried, Annie Palmer began a reign of terror at Rose Hall. Fearing her slave lover might blackmail her, she watched from the back of a black horse while he was securely tied, gagged, and flogged to death. Legend says that she then began to drift into liaison after liaison with one slave after another. But she was fickle: When her lovers 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."
Although some scholars claim that they can produce no evidence of this legendary figure's cruelty or even of her debauchery, her story has been the subject of countless paperback Gothic novels.
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 -- in a fit of jealous rage -- had placed on his beloved granddaughter, which had caused that granddaughter "to wither and die." Her household servants, as well as the overseer of her plantation, Ashman, who recorded most of the grisly events in his diary, just wanted her buried as soon as possible in the deepest hole they could dig. Fearing her return from the dead, the household servants hastily burned most of her possessions, fearing that they were permeated with remnants of her spirit. Evidence of the building being haunted grew stronger as a succession of tragedies befell most of the subsequent owners.