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.

In Her Footsteps: Annie [also Annee] Palmer (ca. 1804-1833) -- Few would want to follow in the debauched footsteps of one of Jamaica's most infamous women, "the white witch of Rose Hall," a cruel mistress and the subject of countless Gothic novels.

  • Accomplishments: One doesn't know for sure, but Annie is said to have poisoned her first husband, strangled her second, and stabbed the unlucky third. An odd lover or two along the way met similar fates.
  • Residence: Rose Hall, outside Montego Bay, once one of the most luxurious great houses of Jamaica.
  • Resting Place: She reportedly lies in a troubled sleep at Rose Hall, after having been mysteriously strangled to death.

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