By Vivian Nelson Melle
By day, the Rose Hall mansion on Jamaica’s northern coast stands as a perfect mix of 1700's Georgian architecture and the country’s enthralling natural beauty. By night, what has become one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist destinations becomes a ghoulish reminder of Jamaica's morbid history.
Originally part of a sprawling 650-acre estate, the property’s story is also steeped in Jamaica’s dark history as the estate included over 250 slaves who worked mostly on the surrounding sugar cane fields.
According to Rose Hall’s famous legend, the spirit of Annie Palmer haunts the grounds as the White Witch. As the story goes, Annie was born in Haiti and was a voodoo practitioner. She moved to Jamaica and Rose Hall with her husband, John Palmer, but allegedly murdered him soon afterward.
She wasn’t done there, according to the legend, as she married two more times with each of those husbands suffering a similar fate to the first at Rose Hall. Adding horrific ambiance are the murders of slaves who fell victim to the witch.
Although it is said that her reign of terror eventually ended by the same slaves she mistreated, she is said to still haunt the grounds and photos of a ghostly apparition believed to be Annie adorn the entrance hall.
Taking the Tours
Taking the Day Tour
Visitors have a few choices for touring the estate. The Rose Hall Great House and Garden Tour is $18 and offers daytime views of the property and its garden. The day tour highlights the gorgeous gardens and spectacular estate offerings.
Braving the Night Tour
At night, the hall stands as a stark reminder of its murderess former mistress. The Rose Hall Great House Haunted Tour is also $18 and offers an evening of spooky fun. You may catch a glimpse of the White Witch as she roams the 18th Century sugar plantation, that is if the séances don’t bring her to you. Guides will also point out supposed locations of underground tunnels, bloodstains, and rooms where all three husbands met their unfortunate ends. Be warned; many believe those who see the Witch meet unfortunate deaths.
Tour Johnny Cash’s Home at Cinnamon Hall
If ghost tours aren’t your cup of tea, you may enjoy visiting the vacation home of Johnny Cash and June Carter. The couple lived on the estate at Cinnamon Hall for years. In 1973, Johnny Cash even wrote “The Ballad of Annie Palmer” about the ruthless slave owner and murdering mistress of Rose Hall. Cash family pictures still hang on the walls, and Johnny's shoes await his arrival by the back door. Locals report sightings of June and Johnny that bring a more uplifting feel to some of the sorrow of the area.
More Things to Do
Hit the Greens
Two award-winning golf courses grace the hills of Rose Hall. The White Witch Golf Course provides 18 holes of champion quality golfing. Enjoy its 6,758-yard with Par 71, named after the infamous White Witch of Rose Hall. The Cinnamon Hill Golf Course plays through coastal greens and ocean breezes. The 17th hole provides unforgettable ocean views amidst beautiful pines. The Cinnamon Hill Course also boasts award-winning caddie service.
Enjoy a Day Trip from Ocho Rios
The beauty and legend of Rose Hall are known throughout Jamaica and though the estate is just a stone’s throw from the heart of Montego Bay, it is also readily accessible from Ocho Rios and Moon Palace Jamaica to the east. Rose Hall is a popular destination for tours coming from the resort city, as the travel time along the picturesque Northern Coastal Highway is only an hour-and-a-half.