Magic, ritual, curses and murder are all elements to this tale of human abuse and hauntings.
Built on a hillside with a commanding view of the sea, John Palmer's home was more like a small village, as it housed the domestic and commercial/industrial aspects of his life. With many servants and his offices the house would have been a hub of human activity.
The plantation had hundreds of enslaved Africans who worked the crops. All lived onsite in their dwellings, which would have been made up of dormitory style accommodation and a few houses for families.
However, even with such a massive property and commanding presence, this story is not so much about the house and land, but more about one of its residents – Annie Palmer.
The White Witch
Unfortunately her parents both contracted and died from yellow fever, and Annie was raised by her Haitian nanny. As Annie was being raised, she was taught much about the Haitian culture, and most importantly to this story, Haitian Vodou.
Annie eventually moved to Jamaica where she met her husband, and owner of Rose Hall, John Rose Palmer.
Living at Rose Hall, so near to the plantation and the workers, with her husband working long hours, Annie soon got bored. As a method of entertainment, she developed a relationship of lust with a young slave. When Annie's husband found out about the affair, he had the slave killed, and beat Annie with a riding whip.
John Palmer died that night. (Annie Palmer married two other men but these two also died under mysterious circumstances.)
Annie, now the owner of the plantation, began to show a very sadistic side to her nature. She would punish the slaves over the smallest infringements; even a rumour of a slave’s disobedience saw them face her ire. Public floggings were common place, as was torture. At times the slaves would die from such 'disciplines', and they would be buried in the middle of the night in unmarked graves.
It was also rumoured that the many deaths of babies during the night were Annie's doing.
Annie became known as 'The Daughter of the Devil' and 'the White Witch'.
Annie met her end when she began to show affections to one of the married slaves. The wife of this slave, obviously, was not happy with such affections towards her husband, and was the first to really stand up to Annie Palmer.
Annie could have simply had this slave beaten or tortured to death, but rather opted to curse the woman. She slowly, over weeks, withered away - either by the curse itself or just from the fear that this 'devil woman' had cursed her. She soon died and Annie finally had the husband to herself.
One thing Annie had not counted on was the dead wife's grandfather. His name was Takoo and was a freed slave, having been released from the plantation many years earlier. Takoo was also a bokor, a priest of vodou and he sought revenge for his granddaughter’s death.
Annie died in 1831, not as a result from a spell or curse, but was found strangled in her bed. Takoo had done the deed himself, but his arts were not unused. A coffin of stone was created to house Annie's body, and throughout the construction, Takoo placed markings that were hoped to keep Annie's body and spirit trapped within.
Rose Hall went to ruin with no one living in the old house. The grounds and gardens began to reclaim the building, as the roof started to fall in and the floorboards and walls gave way.
The house was saved when in the 1960's and 1970's it was completely restored to its original look. It was during this time of that the ghosts and hauntings began to make themselves known. Workmen would report that their tools had been moved from where they had been left the night before, and mysterious stains would show up on the newly placed floorboards.
After the restoration was complete, the owners went on the hunt for the original furnishings that once graced the halls interiors. Eventually they located an old mirror that was owned by the Palmer's, and soon the antique once again took up position in its former home.
It is in this mirror where a number of visitor experience take place. Many have reported seeing a face in the mirror, out the corner of their eye, or a fleeting glimpse of a woman peering over their shoulder.
As a final note, in 2007 an investigation into the history and legends of Rose Hall was carried out. It was at this time that the researcher found that the book 'The White Witch of Rosehall', published in 1929, was possibly the genesis for much of this legend. Others maintain that the book took its ideas from the true to life legends told of the estate.
Either way it is a fascinating history and as they say it is not always best to allow fact to get in the way of a good fiction.
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