Every country has its fair share of legends and haunted stories, and Jamaica is no different. Jamaican history and culture is steeped in legends dating back to its pre-Colombian ancestors. Plantation society and the imported beliefs and practices of the enslaved Africans added another dimension to Jamaica’s supernatural. Jamaica does not celebrate Halloween, however the island has adopted some of its celebrations in recent years due to popular culture and globalization. Jamaicans need little excuse to party, but if we’re being honest– Jamaica has its own fair share of paranormal activity and characters. In this article, I’ll delve into Jamaica’s spooky folklore creatures and four haunted places in Jamaica where one can visit and have a paranormal experience– if you dare.
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Jamaican Folklore Creatures
Jamaicans are natural storytellers. We have a rich oral history and folklore gets passed down from generation to generation, in particular Anansi and duppy stories. Some of these stories were told to scare children and keep them in check, but many people carry these beliefs and fears into adulthood. This part of our heritage is fading as kids these days prefer to watch cartoons and use their gadgets instead of listening to these farfetched tales and superstitions. Thankfully, we have cultural icons such as Louise Bennett-Coverley whose books and poems now provide written record of our folklore and immortalize Jamaica’s oral history.
Older Jamaicans grew up learning about:
- Rolling Calf— A menacing bull which haunted the country at nights. It has the ability to shapeshift, and possesses blazing red eyes and smoke coming from its nostrils. You can recognize a rolling calf by the sound of a heavy clanking chain which it drags around. Rolling calves are thought to be the spirit of wicked undead people. To escape a rolling calf, one has to drop some items on the ground for the rolling calf to count.
- River Mummas are sinister mermaids which guard the sources of the island’s rivers. From time to time, River Mummas may sit on the rocks combing their long hair with a golden comb. Legend has it that if you see a River Mumma, she will put you into a trance then grab and drag you down into the depths of the river to your death.
- An Ol’ Higue is a witch who sheds her skin at night and takes the form of an owl. She feeds on the breath of her victims while they sleep and is particularly dangerous to babies. To get rid of her, one has to find her skin and put salt and pepper in it. This will burn her when she tries to get back in and without her skin, she will die.
- Duppy is the Jamaican word for ghost. Duppies can be good or bad, depending on what kind of person he or she was when alive. Bad duppies can be set onto persons through obeah practices while the good duppies are those of friends and family who “dream” you to give advice. This is perhaps the fictional creature which Jamaicans hold on to the most. If I had a dollar for every time one of my patients or their relatives told me their diagnosis is due to Obeah (someone releasing a bad duppy or casting a spell onto them), I’d be rich.
Well, are you ready to encounter any of these creatures? Here are four haunted places in Jamaica where you supposedly can.
1. Rose Hall Great House
Rose Hall Great House is the most popular haunted place in Jamaica. Located in Montego Bay, its claim to fame comes from the legend of Annie Palmer, White Witch of Rose Hall. In 1820 John Rose marries Annie, a fiery English girl who was raised in Saint Domingue by a creole nanny after her parents died from yellow fever. It is said that this is where Annie learnt the black arts, which she later used to murder her husband John. 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. Her spirit is said to roam the property, and her paranormal presence can be easily felt. Rose Hall Great House has upped the ante with theatrics and spooky lighting, and you can easily tour the mansion on overnight tours. Read about my haunted night tour at the Rose Hall Great House.
2. Duppy Church
The abandoned St. George’s Anglican Church, also known as Duppy Church, is another haunted place in Jamaica. Located about five minutes from the Mile Gully town centre in Manchester, the church is said to have been abandoned after duppies were constantly wreaking havoc on the congregation. The forlorn Duppy Church gives off an eerie look as its doors and pews are long gone, and the windows are broken. The church is surrounded by graves with tombstones dating back to the 1800s. There have been reports of taximen picking up duppies masquerading as young females in the area at night, and people report hearing faint organ strains playing outside the church. Most community residents avoid Duppy Church at all costs.
3. Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is located in the remote Pedro district of St. Ann. Edinburgh Castle was built by Lewis Hutchinson, Jamaica’s first recorded serial killer. Hutchinson was a Scottish physician who came to Jamaica in the 1760s. He would kill lone passers-by with a single shot from his castle, or entertain invited guests before murdering them then forcing his slaves to dump the bodies at a sinkhole on his property. He became more daring over time, even shooting at his neighbour and a soldier in full view of a white colonist. He was eventually captured, tried and hanged at the Spanish Town Gallows in 1773. The final count of people murdered by Hutchinson is unknown. However, 43 watches and a large amount of clothing were found in his castle after his arrest. Edinburgh Castle is now said to be haunted by the spirits of his victims.
4. Flat Bridge
Flat Bridge is a beam bridge which spans the Rio Cobre in Bog Walk, St. Catherine. Flat Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in Jamaica, built in the 1700s with slave labour. Dozens of slaves lost their lives as they performed dangerous tasks in the Gorge. Today, there are several myths regarding Flat Bridge which bring dread to those who have to cross it. It is believed that Flat Bridge is the gathering place for duppies of slaves who died during the construction of the bridge.
The bridge floods during heavy rainfall, and becomes very hazardous when wet. The swift river has devoured every railing which has been erected over the years, therefore there is very little protection from the river’s wrath while crossing. This doesn’t deter some motorists from driving recklessly on the bridge. Nonetheless, nearby residents believe that the duppies pull vehicles into the river and are responsible for the frequent accidents on Flat Bridge. They say that when the water turns into the colour of a green lizard, the duppies are going to pull somebody in. Also, river mummas are believed to live in a bottomless hole below the bridge. It is thought that the river mummas pull away the railing each time one is erected. Another Flat Bridge myth is that of the Golden Table. This golden table is reportedly hidden under Flat Bridge and can be seen when it surfaces on the hottest days at noon. Clinton Black’s Tales of Old Jamaica recounts a story where 24 bulls and 6 screaming slaves drowned after they tried to retrieve the table under the instructions of their plantation owner.
I hope you enjoyed this list of Jamaican folklore creatures and haunted places in Jamaica. Do you believe in the paranormal? I can’t say I do, but I believe in the Jamaican saying “Belief kills and belief cures.” Simply put, what you believe creates your reality. I look forward to hearing your thoughts below. Remember to sign up for weekly Jamaican travel and lifestyle content on Fridays.
‘Til next time!