The proper name of the resort I’m staying at is Ritz-Carlton, Rose Hall. Which seems a bit odd since Rose Hall is the name of the old estate across the street where Annie Palmer, known on the island as “The White Witch,” murdered three husbands, kept love slaves chained up in the basement, and was eventually murdered herself by a voodoo doctor who was also one of her slave lovers.
Of course, this all happened some 175 years ago, so maybe people are over it.
I’d been resisting a visit to Rose Hall since duppies (what Jamaicans call ghosts) really aren’t my thing, but it was a dark and windy day yesterday—bad for the beach but perfect for visiting a haunted house.
I was shown around Rose Hall by a tiny little woman in a faux-plantation outfit (imagine the Hattie McDaniel character in Gone With the Wind) named Latoya. Now, I don’t want to step on any of Latoya’s well-rehearsed lines so I’m just going to basically repeat what she told me as we walked around the old stone house that was originally built between 1770 and 1780. I’m not going to use quotation marks, so just imagine that I’m now letting Latoya write the rest of this blog:
After the death of the original owner, John Palmer, the house eventually ended up in the hands of his grand nephew, John Rose Palmer, in 1818. Two years later he married a 17-year-old woman named Annie who was raised in Haiti by a nanny who taught her voodoo. Annie was nothing but wicked. Shortly after marrying John Rose, she poisoned him, mostly because she liked making love to the slaves on the plantation and her husband wasn’t down with that.
Then she remarried but that guy wasn’t too keen on her makin’ da sexy with the unhired help either, so she had one of her slave lovers take care of the guy. This gave her the time to redecorate the basement into one of the first orgy rooms on the planet, complete with torture equipment, sharp instruments, bear traps, and a round bed. Dis Annie was a kinky girl.
Well, she got married again but soon grew tired of this guy as well. I guess we all know what happened next. But at this point one of her sex slaves decided he just wasn’t that in to her. Most everyone on the plantation was scared shitless of Annie because she knew that Haitian voodoo shit, but this guy knew a little voodoo himself. So they had it out in a Harry Potter sort of way. In the end, they both died.
So the slaves buried her in a stone crypt meant to keep her soul caged up where it couldn’t cause anymore harm. But somebody forgot to say all the proper magical things during the burial ceremony and her soul got out. And now you can find Annie riding around the plantation at night, whip in hand, ready to lash anyone she comes across.
In short, Annie Palmer is one bad-ass bitch.
Okay, Latoya has gone off to escort the next tour group and I’m back. And I hate to spoil Latoya’s story because it really raised goosebumps up and down my spine, but almost none of this is true. According to an archivist for the Jamaica Archives, Annie Palmer was just a simple young woman (unfortunately, she was never trained in voodoo) who, when her husband died seven years after they married, “had no money, no slaves, no real claim to the estate—nothing.”
What? No slaves! Well, okay, according to the records there was an elderly housekeeper, who tried to keep the place up for a couple of years after John Palmer passed away, but Annie Palmer, who couldn’t afford Rose Hall, moved away.
Says the archivist, Geoffrey Yates, Annie Palmer “never married again, had no children, and was not destined to live to a ripe old age.” She died in 1846, at the age of 44, and “was buried in the church yard at Montego Bay. No tombstone has survived to mark the spot.”
Which sort of makes you wonder who’s buried in the massive stone crypt at Rose Hall where the guides like to end their tours by singing that old Jamaican spiritual “Ballad of Annie Palmer.” Which just happens to have been written by that old Jamaican singer/songwriter Johnny Cash.
Still, I have to say, I like Latoya’s version of the story better.
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