Rose Hall Great House & The Haunting of Johnny Cash

Rose Hall Great House (Image: Don Ramey Logan; Rose Hall Great House in Montego Bay)

There’s a legend that claims the ghost of a woman named Annie Palmer still haunts Jamaica’s Rose Hall Great House and plantation, in Montego Bay. Culture Trip tells the story of this black widow whose legend – true or not – has taken on a weird life of its own.

According to the story, 10-year-old Annie moved from England to Haiti with her parents in 1812. Happiness wasn’t on the cards, though, and the young girl lost both of her parents to yellow fever just a year later. Annie was then adopted into the care of a nanny who taught her everything she needed to know about black magic.

The purported tomb of Annie Palmer, the so-called White Witch of Rose Hall, in Montego Bay, Jamaica. (Image: Urban Walnut; the purported tomb of Annie Palmer)

After her nanny also died, Annie headed to Jamaica to find her own way in the world. Finding the owner of the Rose Hall Great House and its estate in need of a wife, she reportedly cast a spell to ensure she was the one that he married. Annie soon poisoned him, and the entire estate passed into her possession.

The slaves that worked for Annie – sometimes on the plantation, sometimes as her lovers – called her the White Witch of Rose Hall, and she would marry two more times as the years passed. Both those husbands also met grisly ends, allegedly killed with the help of one of Annie’s slaves, a man named Takoo.

(Image: James Hakewill)

Annie’s own demise came at his hands, too. The story claims that she had set her sights on another man, who had fallen in love with Takoo’s granddaughter. Annie eliminated her rival for the man’s affections and, in retaliation, Takoo called on the same magic that Annie practised in order to strangle her in her sleep.

Annie was buried in a tomb on the property. But according to legend, the ritual that must to be performed to seal Annie forever in her grave wasn’t completed, and her angry spirit still roams the property.

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Rose Hall Great House while in disrepair. The grand plantation home was later reconstructed (Image: Jasonbook99)

As it turns out, there really was a woman named Annie Palmer who lived on the plantation, and she and her husband were not married for long. John Rose Palmer, the great-nephew of the estate’s original owner, died not long after he moved there but there was no motivation for Annie to kill him – he left her penniless with no claim on the land.

That’s essentially all we know about the mysterious, ill-fated couple, and it wasn’t until 1929 that the White Witch of Rose Hall story was popularised by the Jamaican journalist Herbert George de Lisser. For Johnny Cash fans, however, the name Annie Palmer should sound familiar – Saving Country Music says that her legend inspired the song Ballad of Annee Palmer.

Iconic country singer Johnny Cash (Image: Joel Baldwin; Johnny Cash)

Not only did Cash live in Jamaica (where he was involved in a terrifying home invasion and robbery), he also wrote in his autobiography that he had encountered a number of mysterious figures in his own home, which was located in the same neighbourhood as Rose Hall Great House.

Mysterious Destinations Magazine offers a rundown of some of the figures Johnny Cash claimed to have seen there, including a woman in her early 30s, clad in a long white dress who allegedly appeared more than once, even before entire groups.

(Image: Don Ramey Logan; Rose Hall Great House in 2013)

He wrote, “We’ve never had any trouble with these souls. They mean us no harm, I believe, and we’re certainly not scared of them; they just don’t produce that kind of emotion.” The truth? You can visit the house and find out for yourself.


About the author: Debra Kelly




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