The White Witch of Rose Hall

This performance is a ghost story told by my grandpa. Now 79 years old, he lived the first 26 years of his life in a crowded house in Old Harbour, Jamaica. He moved to New York in ‘68 and has lived in the US since. A lot of his family still live in Jamaica and the country is still the place of his roots. He is Jamaican, Chinese, and Indian. He has a thick Jamaican accent so if you can read this in a Jamaican accent it may add to the experience. This is a transcribed script of what was said in the story, with the various “umm’s” and “uhh’s” omitted. 


“I was telling them (my family in Texas) ghost stories at the Mo-Ranch… but we call them duppy stories instead of ghost stories. In Jamaica we call them duppy instead of ghosts. I was there telling them around the fireplace duppy stories… but when we told ghost stories in Jamaica no one wants to go to bed because they are too afraid to go to bed. And then the following day I ask them if any of them dream about ghosts. And then Noah (my cousin: 14 y/o) said, “ya, at 3 in the morning it feel like someone was touching my toes.” In Jamaica there’s a true story about a white witch who rose on… near Montego Bay there’s a county, we call it a parish, it’s called Lucy, and there was a lady there from America I think. She had a big estate back in the 1800s and they had a lot of plantations where they did sugarcane and she had hundreds of slaves and she would work them so hard. When they died they would just bury them on the property. And she got so old that… she still had slaves and all that on her plantation… and when she died she used to have a big stallion, a big white horse, that she rides around the property, and it’s rumored that she died and she was still riding around the property on this white horse, a lot of people saw her, or think they see her on this white horse, and they’d be scared of her. So I was telling the kids about this story, saying that this woman would come into your bed and scare you tonight. I guess that’s why Noah dreamt why someone was holding on to his foot that night.” 


My grandpa had told this story over zoom to me and the rest of the family, but it was brought up when they were talking about the family’s trip to Mo-Ranch. While sitting around the campfire and entertaining both the kids and the adults, my grandpa told them this story to try to scare the kids. Luckily, the two youngest were not phased and slept soundly through the night. I am not sure where my grandpa learned this story, and neither is he, but to him, it seemed like a fairly common story among his generation of Jamaicans. 

I personally really enjoyed this story from my grandpa. Even though it can be difficult to understand him at times (the Jamaican accent and many paths in the story really don’t mix well) it was still an interesting story. I thought it was funny that he opened by saying how the story was true. I looked the story up and found that there were indeed some elements of it that were true. The story is known around Jamaica as The White Witch of Rose Hall. The story I found on other websites was considerably more in-depth and gruesome than the one my grandpa had told. Perhaps he was censoring it a little so it could be told to the kids. Perhaps his memory was a little splotchy and he just missed some things. Or perhaps that was just the way he had heard the story told. 

Some things missed in the story from other folklore accounts included the name of the ‘White Witch.’ Her name was Annie Palmer, and from other accounts, it said that she was a cruel person. It is said that she had killed not one, not two, but three husbands and enjoyed torturing and killing her slaves. When she died (killed by her slave lover Takoo), a voodoo ritual was performed on her but it was done incorrectly and her spirit was released into Rose Hall. So there were things that my grandpa missed, but he got the overall essence of the story, how a cruel woman now haunted a plantation in Jamaica. 

For another reference to this story, see the link below.