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Annie Palmer, Johnny Cash & The Rose Hall Great House

Many visitors to the Rose Hall Great House in Montego Bay claim to have captured ghost-like images in photos, and even Johnny Cash wrote a song about the infamous Annie Palmer.  To see what all the stories were about, we took a day trip over to the house for a guided tour.

Driving onto the manicured grounds, a centuries-old mansion comes into view – perched atop a hill with sweeping views of the Caribbean. We meet our guide and she takes us down a stone path toward the front entrance, which sits at the top of a slew of steps. They are setting up for an event on the front lawn, and there is construction currently happening on the wood deck to the left of the main door – otherwise, the house retains much of its original facade. Turning around before entering, the view of the sea spans out for miles and miles – choppy from a breeze indicating afternoon rain.

Our guide takes us through the towering front entrance and the storytelling begins. The Great House was built in 1770 by John Palmer and his wife, eventually becoming the residence of their grandnephew, John Rose Palmer. Some 50 years later in 1820, John Rose married Annie, a fiery red-headed English girl with a thirst for blood. Some may say his young wife possessed “black magic” powers – earning her the nickname “The White Witch of Rose Hall” (another theory is that she rode horseback wearing a white dress and thus looked like a white witch). Black magic or not, Annie had a wicked side – eventually leading to the demise of John Rose himself, two more husbands and countless slave lovers.  The story of Annie has fascinated generations – even Johnny Cash wrote a song about her -and there are often those who claim to see Annie’s ghost passing through the Great House.

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The tour takes us through the first floor – a library where house meetings were held, the dining room (where we are shown how knives were kept under lock and key so the slaves couldn’t kill themselves or attempt to do away with her), and the breakfast room. Employing hundreds of slaves, Annie would require them to whistle as they brought food to the table to ensure they weren’t eating any – a sure way to get whipped or killed. Up the staircase, we are shown five bedrooms – three of which she used to kill each husband, her own bedroom, and a guest room. Story has it that friends of the new owners of the Great House wanted to stay overnight and had their own terrifying encounter – making them the last guests to ever stay at the house.

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Due to the humidity of the tropics, some of the wall coverings have been refurbished, however the house maintains decor true to the era. Expensive cloths and silks brought from all over the world adorn the rooms, furniture is made from rich, local mahogany wood, and china and pewter tablewares depict the times. Once we finish on the upper floor, we are taken to the dungeon where slaves were banished but now houses restrooms, a bar, and a few photos guests have submitted showing what they believe to be ghosts.

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Concluding our tour, we are taken outside to view the tomb of Annie herself – adorned with crosses and situated in a garden near the Great House. Our guide sings us a few lines from Johnny Cash’s “The Ballad of Annie Palmer” before allowing us to take photos and showing ourselves out. The song tells the story quite well…

“The Ballad Of Annie Palmer”

On the island of Jamaica
Quit a long long time ago
At rose hall plantation
Where the ocean breezes blow
Lived a girl named Annie Palmer
The mistress of the place
And the slaves all lived in fear
To see a frown on Annie’s face

Wheres your husband Annie
Where’s number two and three
Are they sleeping beneath the palms
Beside the Caribbean sea
At night I hear you riding
And I hear your lovers call
And I still can feel your presence
Around the great house at rose hall

Well if you should ever go to see the great house at rose hall
There’s expensive chairs and china
And great paintings on the wall
They’ll show you any sitting room
And the whipping post outside
But they won’t let you see the room
Where Annie’s husbands died

Wheres your husband Annie
Where’s number two and three
Are they sleeping beneath the palms
Beside the Caribbean Sea
At night I hear you riding
And I hear your lovers call
And I still can feel your presence
Around the great house at rose hall

Rose Hall Great House

Round Hill Hotel and Villas is the perfect home base from which to explore all that Montego Bay has to offer. Book your stay with us and take your very own tour of the Rose Hall Great House – maybe you’ll encounter the ghost of Annie Palmer yourself.

Right now, Round Hill is offering the Winter Warmth package: Enjoy your 5th Night Free + many amazing amenities including daily tea and non-motorized water sports such as snorkeling and pedal boats.