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Annie Patterson: the “White Witch” of Rose Hall between Reality and Legend.

5 min read

Of the seven hundred large manor houses that once existed in Jamaica, today there remain only about fifteen, because the others were burned during the great “Christmas rebellion” of slaves. Eleven days, between 1831 and 1832, in which the black workers, now slaves, sought a liberation that cost the lives of many of them and only came years later.
Rose Hall, near Montego Bay, is one of the survivors of the revolt, and certainly the most famous because it is surrounded by ghostly legends and scary ghost stories.
The story of Rose Hall began in the mid-1700s, when an Englishman, Henry Fanning bought a large plot of land to make a plantation and build a luxurious home, where he lived with the woman he was about to marry, Rose Kelly. He did not have time to realize the project, because he died a few months after the wedding. Rose Hall was built by Rose’s second husband, who managed to see the house completed, but not to enjoy it, because it passed away a little later.

Rose’s third husband had time to dispel the woman’s fortune before dying in 1767. A year later, she married John Palmer, the last of her husbands, who survived her. The property did not interest the two heirs, sons of Palmer (but not of Rose), who lived in England, and at the end the property was inherited by a nephew, John Rose Palmer, who moved to Jamaica in 1818, and shortly after he married Annie Patterson, the woman who, according to legend, today is called the “white witch” of Rose Hall.
There are many variations of the story of Annie Palmer, linked by a blood-red thread that runs through them all.

Annie Patterson, of Irish descent, at the age of ten had moved with her family to Haiti, where she had learned from her nanny the secrets of voodoo, deepened when her parents died of yellow fever and she remained under the protection of women . When Annie was 18, and also her nanny died, she moved to Jamaica looking for a husband. Here she found John Palmer, owner of Rose Hall.

After a few months, the girl got tired of the man and began to choose lovers among the slaves of the plantation. When her husband caught her with one of them, he beat her with a whip, but no harm done, because the next day he lay dead, probably poisoned. Thus began the years of terror at Rose Hall: the woman killed slaves, her lovers, as soon as she got tired of them, but not only! She also tortured regularly and then killed all those who somehow would harassed her. The servants who worked in the house, when they brought something to eat, were forced to whistle, to prevent them from eating even the smallest piece of food. If they did not, they risked their life! Annie’s incredible cruelty, and her familiarity with the voodoo rituals, earned her the nickname of “white witch”. Annie married twice more, killing both husbands to inherit their assets.

At the end, she fell in love with an Englishman, who did not want her, because he was in love with the niece of a slave named Takoo, who was also Annie’s lover. The white witch killed the young rival, thanks to a spell, but it ended badly: Takoo strangled her and buried her in a deep pit. Then he performed a voodoo ritual that should have prevented the woman’s spirit to leaving the grave. Perhaps he was not so expert in magical arts, because Annie’s ghost began to wander around Rose Hall. During the riot of 1831 the house was spared for fear that the fire would free the ghost, allowing it to wander even outside the plantation. And so the house remained abandoned for about 130 years. This is the story told in Jamaica, but very different from the truth about Annie Palmer.

Actually, Annie Mary Paterson was born in Jamaica from Scottish parents, and she had not grown up in Haiti, nor was she an expert on voodoo rituals. In 1820 he married John Rose Palmer, who was her only husband. Not much is known of the couple, but they certainly did not remain in Rose Hall for a long time, burdened by too many debts, which ended up in the hands of creditors, and remained abandoned for about 130 years. But why Annie, who lived a normal and anonymous life, became the protagonist of such a creepy and cruel story?

The seeds of the legend were thrown from a story published in 1868, which had as its protagonist Rose Palmer, the first owner of Rose Hall. She had four husbands, so she could be credibly suspected of being a witch (even if it seems that she was a mild and quiet woman). Over time, more and more chilling details were added, until in 1911 a book about local history was published, and for some reason was indicated Annie as the “white witch” of Rose Hall. Annie Palmer was definitively consecrated as the “white witch” in 1929, when was published a novel know as “The White Witch of Rose Hall”. A novel, a work of fiction, but it was considered a historical account.

Although the truth about Annie Palmer is known, lot of people still considering Rose Hall a haunted house: some say they saw a figure, dressed in green velvet, hanging around the land of the property, while others are convinced that a woman dressed in white wanders around the house. Then there are people who heard screams and noises of footsteps in the rooms, especially in the cellar, which today is a gift shop. Perhaps it’s true that Annie Palmer wanders about the great house trying to tell her truth about Rose Hall, spared from the fire but condemned to be a ghostly place!

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