Rose Hall Great House, Saint James

Overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea lies the imposing Rose Hall Great House and sugar plantation, a remnant of our colonial days when sugar was King. The house was built of Georgian style architecture in 1770 by John Palmer and his wife, and was eventually handed down to his grandnephew by the same name, John Rose Palmer. The house and its surrounding 6,000 acres are stunning but what makes Rose Hall alluring to its thousands of monthly visitors is the legend behind it.

Rose Hall Great House
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History of Rose Hall Great House (Cont’d)

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Source: Rose Hall Great House website

In 1820, John Rose marries Annie, a fiery English girl who was raised in Saint Domingue by a creole nanny after the death of her parents from yellow fever. It is said that this is where Annie learnt the black arts, which she later used to help murder her husband John and become the mistress of the property–the infamous White Witch of Rose Hall. She later murdered her subsequent two husbands and countless slave lovers, but as fate would have it, she was eventually killed by a slave lover named Takoo. Whether or not the story is fact or fictionalized, you be the judge but Rose Hall certainly made for an interesting stop.

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Where is the Rose Hall Great House Located?

The Rose Hall Great House is located in Montego Bay, just off the A1 main road on Jamaica’s northwestern coast. If you’re driving, there’s a security guard by the entrance who’ll take your name and enquire your purpose before letting you onto the property. Parking spaces were few.

rose hall great house sign

For the tour itself, there are two options– the tour by light (daytime) and haunted night. Which one to take depends on how you prefer to explore the place. The day tour allows you to experience the full beauty of the house, its gardens and the view of the Caribbean Sea since it is set on a hill, something I completely missed out on by taking the night tour. The haunted night tour, however, is exciting too with tonnes of theatrics and spooky lighting. I chose the Rose Hall night tour since the great house’s claim to fame is its alleged haunting, so what better time to explore it than at night when duppies (ghosts) come out? Many people have claimed to glimpse apparitions or even caught ghostly figures and supernatural occurrences in their photographs. I’ll get to whether or not I did too shortly.

rose hall great house trip advisor
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Either tour lasts 45 minutes and costs US$25 or JM$1,500 with a valid local or student ID. They’re open from 9:15am to 5:15pm, then 6:30pm to 9:15pm for the night tour. Walk-ins are welcome. Restrooms are available and there’s a restaurant and bar in the dungeon. Yes, I’m serious. You can also grab a souvenir from Annie’s Treasures which doubles as the ticket office–very clever. They have lovely things but of course, they’re pricey.

annies treasures rose hall great house
Rose Hall’s souvenir shop & ticket office
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The Rose Hall Haunted Night Tour

path to rose hall great house at night
Pitch black, save for candlelight. Spooky.

Goodness! After purchasing your ticket/arm band, that’s it for proper lighting. The walk from Annie’s Treasures to the greathouse would be pitch black, save for the candlelight flickering in the cool breezes drifting up from the coast. A small involuntary prickle runs down my spine and I glance at my friend who was probably wondering why the hell she allowed me to convince her this was a worthwhile way of spending our Friday night. A man chants uncanny non-English lyrics to a feverish drumbeat and the house is bathed in unearthly red, rather clever lighting for encouraging the spooks. My guide Chaniece begins telling the history of Rose Hall and its mistress with us looking up at the house, then there was an unnecessarily long pause at the Dungeon Bar in case we’d like Witches’ Brew to steady our nerves or get our picture taken which would be printed at a cost. We had no interest in spending more money but the pause was mandatory and as a result, pretty annoying.

rose hall great house at night
Rose Hall Great House at night in ethereal red lighting
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We resumed in 15 minutes or so when our guide returned and went from dungeon up to the first storey to admire the restored mansion and its furnishings, plus continue listening to the chilling tale of Annie and her atrocities. No pictures are allowed inside the house, so the ones included in this post are taken from the website, but of course, nothing looked as bright in the night tour’s strategic ethereal illumination. Nonetheless, we could admire the beautiful silk upholstered walls, replaced every five years, along with the European style chandeliers, furnishings and décor from centuries-past. Manually emptied toilets and bidets, oil lamps, lead pails for fetching water, tea leaf boxes and a knife-box with lock and key to “prevent the slaves from harming themselves at night” have no business in the 21st century. On the second storey we got to see all the bedrooms where Annie committed her wickedness, choosing different means of demise for each husband ranging from strangulation, different poisons and even stabbing in the chest.

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The first storey, taken from website
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Annie’s lair, err, bedroom, taken from website

Apparitions or not, the house is full of white-faced men and women at night who pop out from behind doors, trapdoors and curtains, and the lights flicker unexpectedly throughout the tour’s duration. You’d better step out the way when they walk towards you– or not if you’re feeling cheeky– but I didn’t want to cause the poor actors and actresses any trouble. The theatrics kept us well entertained for the 45 minutes, even though neither of us saw anything paranormal. The tour ends by Annie Palmer’s tomb which is stark except for a few white crosses–oh, the irony.

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Wrap Up

My criticisms of Rose Hall were the unnecessary wait time before the start of the tour and the lack of professionalism of my tour guide. We eventually built rapport with her, but she initially came across as rude when she asked how come my friend and I were the only two people on the tour and suggested that we catch a portion of the tour that was being done by another guide with another group so she wouldn’t have to do that part. This criticism is perhaps unique to my tour experience, so I won’t let it affect my overall rating of the place. Rose Hall is a beautiful mansion with an interesting story, although it is perhaps make-believe or over-exaggerated which I realized afterwards from my research.

Take a listen to this ballad about Annie Palmer from Johnny Cash. In fact, you can tour this country and western singer’s former house which is located a few minutes’ drive away from Rose Hall– the Cinnamon Hill Great House. Also, if you’d like to see another Georgian-style Jamaican mansion, check out my post on Devon House. Devon House is a must-see in Kingston and is actually one of my favourite places in Jamaica with a much more appealing history than that carried by most of our great houses.

devon house mansion

‘Til next time, friends. Remember to subscribe for new posts.


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Published by

Rochelle | Adventuresfromelle

Adventures from Elle is a travel blog for locals & visitors who want to experience the best of Jamaica, one adventure at a time. The blog is curated by Rochelle Knight, a junior resident (M.D.) in internal medicine and published author. She began the blog in 2016 as a medical student & wants to see the world, starting with her home country. Purchase her book 'SIGHTSEE JAMAICA' on Amazon and join her in Jamaica!

23 thoughts on “Rose Hall Great House, Saint James

  1. Even though I’ve lived in Mobay my entire life I’ve never visited Rose Hall Great House. Never been to Sumfest either but that’s a different story. I’m a very boring Montegonian lol

    Night time scary tours aren’t for me, and I never knew they offered a daylight version so now I might consider it. Thanks for the info!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your creepy experiences at Rose Hall Great House. We visited Rose Hall by daylight and found it impressive, especially the view over the ocean. During the research for my blogpost, I found out, that Rose Hall is completely based on the invented story of Annie Palmer. For that point and that the furniture is not original we not suggest to visit Rose Hall to readers, who are interested in Jamaican history. But it’s a good place to get goose bumps and thrills.

    Liked by 1 person

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