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Myth / The White Witch of Rose Hall

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"The White Witch of Rose Hall" is a title that was given to Annie Palmer, a female slave-owner who reportedly resided at the Great House of Rose Hall, outside of the city of Montego Bay in St. James, Jamaica, during the 1820s and 1830s when slavery still flourished in the island (and in the wider Caribbean and the Americas).

According to the local lore, Annie Palmer was born in neighboring Haiti, and came to Jamaica where she married her first husband, John Palmer, in 1820. Legend says that she murdered him, and eventually two (or three) more husbands and many lovers, and also that she was a practitioner of witchcraft which she used to subjugate the slaves under her command. Eventually she was killed by either one of her lovers or one of her slaves during a slave uprising in 1831, and her body is said to have been buried on the grounds of the plantation.

The Rose Hall Great House property has since been restored, with the mansion itself being a museum for tourists and local visitors to come and learn about the infamous legend. The site is famous for supposedly being haunted by Annie Palmer's spirit. Whether that fame will last is debatable, though, as in 2007 a paranormal researcher named Benjamin Radford declared, after much research, that the White Witch's ghost couldn't really exist as she was a fictional character.

The White Witch of Rose Hall, a novel by H.G. de Lisser, is based on the legend and has as its protagonist a plantation bookkeeper who Annie takes as one of her many lovers.

Tropes attributable to the legend of the White Witch of Rose Hall and to Annie Palmer as a character:

  • Asshole Victim: Following her death, she was considered this, what with being a Black Widow who owned and tortured slaves.
  • The Baroness: Apparently got off on the physical suffering of her slaves when they were made to be punished. H.G. de Lisser's novel describes this trait very graphically.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Annie played up the Southern Belle trope to get lovers and escape suspicion, while actually being a vicious serial killer.
  • Black Magician Girl: A variation of the legend says she learned how to perform voodoo from her Hatian nanny.
  • Black Widow: According to the legend, Anne's body count included three to four husbands as well as many lovers.
  • Blatant Lies: After yet another husband or lover died, Annie would usually claim they died from fever. Since fevers really were a common cause of death in the Deep South, she was believed. She didn't bother coming up with excuses for the dead slaves, since nobody would've cared at that time.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Her legend usually ends with someone from her usual categories of victims (one of her lovers or her slaves) killing her during a slave uprising.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Not exactly a 'queen', but an aristocratic lady who was the ultimate authority over her plantation. And as for why God should save you... look at all the other tropes.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Annie Palmer, if she did exist, was likely a perfectly normal woman and not a crazed sex fiend Black Widow who practiced witchcraft and tortured slaves to death for fun (although records indicate that she did own slaves, as was the norm for aristocrats at the time).
  • Hot Witch: Annie was a practitioner of Hollywood Voodoo and is usually described as very attractive.
  • I Control My Minions Through...: Fear, torture, voodoo, sex, and murder.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Her death came during a slave uprising, at the hand of either a lover or vengeance-seeker.
  • Lust: With the number of husbands and lovers she had (the lovers coming from among both plantation bookkeepers and slaves), one can't help but suspect she suffered from this...
  • Master Poisoner: She liked to poison her husbands and lovers. Slaves, she just tortured to death.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Some stories say that she is a ghost haunting her old house of Rose Hall, where she was killed.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Par for the course during the time period, Annie was a slave owner and (presumably) a racist who practised Hollywood Voodoo and tortured her slaves For the Evulz
  • Rich Bitch: Annie was the owner of a large plantation, and thus very rich, and also a murderous monster.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Got away in murder in part because of her position as a rich plantation owner.
  • Serial Killer: She tortured and murdered numerous slaves for her own amusement.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Her preferred method of murder, especially where her husbands and lovers were concerned. In a few versions of the legend and in H.G. de Lisser's novel, some of her own slaves tried to pull this on her by poisoning one of her drinks, but she subverted the attempt when she realized her drink had been tampered with.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Annie is widely portrayed as using a bullwhip to punish her slaves.
  • Torture Porn: H. G. de Lisser's novel, literally, as it describes her arousal from torturing slaves in explicit detail.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: May well have been the case with her and her first husband, at least.
  • The Vamp: Some takes on the legend make Annie an overtly sexual character, but no less malevolent.
  • Whip of Dominance: Annie, the eponymous witch, was a sadistic slave-owner aristocrat who is widely portrayed as using a bullwhip to intimidate and punish her slaves.