"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.
An outline of the legend can be found here.
Tropes attributable to the legend of the White Witch of Rose Hall and to Annie Palmer as a character:
- 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.
- 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: Mostly about the way her husbands/lovers died — after killing them, she would claim that they died from fever... and because fever was in fact a common cause of death in those days, nobody's suspicions among the upper class were ever raised.
- 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...
- 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.
- 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 It Good: She reportedly used a bullwhip on runaway slaves.