The White Witch of Rose Hall

Josh Teller sat at the bar of the Fiction Club in Montego Bay, Jamaica, waiting. He was nursing his third beer, the first two having met their fate in a much quicker fashion. Being out in public alone always made him feel a bit anxious, and waiting didn’t help matters. At least he had stuck to beer. He wouldn’t want to be sloppy when Annie finally showed up.

He had met Annie five days earlier at a small restaurant in Negril whose name he couldn’t remember. He had been pretty hammered at the time, working on his fifth, maybe sixth Mai Tai. Not his usual drink, but what the hell, he was in tropics and on vacation, in a manner of speaking.

Annie had boldly approached him and declared with an accent he couldn’t place, “You look way too sad to be drinking alone.”

He had looked up at her in a blurry-eyed haze. She was tall and slim with thick wavy chestnut colored hair that coiled its way lazily down her back.

She smiled at him provocatively, and handed him a beer. “Here, you look like you need someone to buy you a drink.”

Josh didn’t care if she was handing him an armed grenade, as long as she kept talking with that amazing accent. Taking the beer, he noticed the skin of her hand was bronzy from the Caribbean sun. Not pasty like his own Pacific North Western derma. He smiled up at her, and raised the frosty bottle in thanks, and took a swig.

“So what brings a good looking guy like yourself out on the town alone in one of the most romantic places on the island?” She asked, her bright blue eyes were playful in the bar’s mood lighting.

Josh took another swallow of beer and sighed. “It’s a story old as time. Boy meets girl, boy and girl decided to get married, boy finds girl schtupping the best man, his roommate and his brother, boy calls off wedding, obviously, and decides to take honeymoon alone because he paid for it.”

“Ouch,” Annie replied, the good-humored light fading from her eyes. She was quiet for a moment.

“Was this place on your list of restaurants?”

Josh looked around. Each table sported crisp white tablecloths, perfectly folded white linen napkins, and closely chatting couples dressed up for a special dinner of over priced seafood. Not really the type of place one came to drink alone.

Josh shook his head, “No, not here. I ate there yesterday. We had a reservation and they were going to charge a hefty fee if I canceled. Something about peak season. I just happened to wander into this place.” He took another sip of beer. “How about you? You seem to be flying solo. What brings you here?”

“I was walking by and saw you sitting here alone and thought to myself, ‘Now there’s a handsome fellow who looks like he needs a shoulder to cry on.’ So in I popped to see if I was right. “

Josh smiled in spite of himself. Here was this beautiful woman who was quite obviously making a move on him. It felt nice considering the past couple of weeks.

“Well if you’re going to be listening to my sob story, I should get your name at the very least.”

“Annie.”

“Josh,” he replied, extending his hand. “Next round’s on me.”

The next five days were a whirl of activities. During the day Josh spent his time doing all the things he and the bitch had planned: snorkeling, surfing lessons, horseback riding, hiking and wine tasting. Then at night he would meet Annie somewhere after she got off work, and she would take him around to eat amazing food, drink crazy concoctions consisting mostly of rum, and dance unabashedly in the street to buskers. It had been truly great. Much better than Josh had expected from taking his honeymoon alone.

From their time together, Josh learned that Annie had been born in the Netherlands, but had grown up in Haiti before moving to Jamaica, explaining her smooth, exotic accent that could make reading the phone book sexy. Along with her sapphire blue eyes, luxuriant hair that smelled of apricots, firm athletic body, and amazing sense of humor and intellect, Annie was what Josh’s mom would call a “catch” to say the least.

So this was why Josh found himself waiting in the Fiction Club for this mysterious and intoxicating woman. He was about to order his fourth beer, when he heard her effortless lilt in his ear.

“Sorry I’m late. Hope you haven’t been waiting long.”

She slid onto the barstool next to him, and noted the three empties in front of him.

“Not long,” he lied, turning to better look at her. Annie looked stunning. Her long wavy hair lay loose over her bare shoulders. She wore a tight white tank top with spaghetti straps, making her bronzy skin glow all the more, and black miniskirt which revealed her long, shapely legs. The only makeup she sported was a little eyeliner and mascara, which framed her blue eyes perfectly.

“You look gorgeous,” Josh said.

Annie smiled, and took a sip of Josh’s beer. “It’s why I’m late. I wanted to look good for your last night.”

Josh had almost forgotten that tomorrow he would be flying home: back to work, apartment hunting, gift returning, bills for a wedding that didn’t happen, and awkward phone calls to friends and family. Luckily his parents had handled most of the cancelations before he had taken off to Jamaica, but the list of people who wanted to talk to him was long, and he wasn’t looking forward to it one bit.

“Well it was well worth the wait,” Josh said, tipping his beer in appreciation. “What did you have planned for my grand exit?”

“You up for a little trespassing?” Her eyes shone mischievously.

“Trespassing?” By all accounts, Josh was a pretty boring guy. He went to work, followed the rules, drove the speed limit, didn’t drink too much, with the exception of this trip, but that was to be expected. Actually, there had been a lot of exceptions on this trip. Normally Josh wouldn’t do half the things he had done while on the Island.

“Maybe,” he said thoughtfully. “What exactly were you thinking?”

Annie leaned in close to Josh, and spoke in an conspiratorial voice, “Rose Hall.”

“Rose Hall in Montego Bay? That’s like, what, three hours away? I leave tomorrow. Are you sure you want to spend the night driving around?” Josh was a bit downtrodden at the prospect of spending his remaining hours in the Caribbean trapped in a car. He had been kind of hoping for some farewell sex, or at the very least a blowjob. “There must be something closer to here. Maybe an old church yard we could break into?”

Smiling, Annie leaned back, “It’ll be totally worth it.” She reached over again and took Josh’s beer from his hand, letting it linger by her slightly parted lips, “By the time we get there, no one will be around. We’ll have the place completely to ourselves,” she finished, taking a slow slip, her eyes never leaving Josh’s.

“What the hell.” If things didn’t pan out at Rose Hall, maybe he could at least wrangle a hand job during the drive on the way home. “Let’s do this.”


* * *
They had parked Josh’s rental car at a nearby resort and walked the quarter mile to Rose Hall. It was a cloudless night, allowing the light of the full moon to illuminate the countryside. The grounds around the estate were beautifully eerie, the moon casting long, silvery shadows from the tall, gently swaying palms. A slight warm breeze tickled the hair on Josh’s arms, raising goose bumps along his exposed skin. Surprisingly there didn’t seem to be any security around, which Josh found a bit strange.

He looked over at Annie. Any ill feeling he may have had about this little stunt vanished. She looked positively radiant with excitement. If he had known trespassing made her this hot, he would have suggested it himself.

Annie turned, and grabbed Josh. Leaning into him, she began to kiss him slowly. She pressed her small, tight frame into his. Her body heat radiated through his light cotton shirt in waves. Did she have a fever? She seemed really hot, a little too hot for health’s sake.

Puling away she breathlessly whispered, “Let’s get closer.” Taking Josh’s hand, she advanced towards the larger three story, white washed plantation house. Josh could still feel the warmth of her body lingering on his chest, and taste her on his lips.

I guess if she didn’t feel well, she would have said something, he thought, obediently following Annie.

At regular intervals Annie would stop, and begin kissing Josh again. Each time was more passionate, until they started to become urgent and a little rough.

“Ouch!” Josh cried softly, pulling away from Annie’s iron clad grip. His hand went to his throbbing lower lip and came away bloody. “Did you just bite me?” he asked slightly flabbergasted.

Annie didn’t offer a response. She only smiled a smile Josh couldn’t interpret, and turned and began to run away giggling.

What the hell, Josh thought? Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe Annie really did have a fever and was starting to lose it a little. Now they were way out in the middle of nowhere, and things were getting way out of his comfort zone.

“Annie!” Josh whispered loudly at her retreating frame. Not knowing what else to do, he started after her.

Annie set quite a pace, challenging Josh to keep up. A regular morning runner, he was surprised by her endurance and speed.

Annie rounded the south side of the looming house. Seconds later when Josh reached the same corner, she was nowhere to be seen. Stopping, Josh raised his hands over his head, fingers entwined in an attempt to catch his breath. He stood like this for several seconds, scanning what appeared to be a bricked courtyard. Ferns and succulent ivy swayed lazily in the warm tropical breeze, throwing muddled silvery shadows along the bricks. The creaking of a heavy door being either opened or closed grabbed Josh’s attention. He walked slowly forward into the courtyard towards where he thought the sound had come, and spotted an ornate metal railing protruding from the yard’s center.

The metal railing, partially covered in ivy, led down to a shallow stairway. Josh could just see the corner of an open door in the stairway’s shadowy light.

“Annie?” Josh whispered loudly, “Are you down there?” He waited several long seconds for a reply. None came. Josh tried again. “Annie, I’m ready to go. I didn’t sign up for a B&E.”

Instead of a response, the large wooden door creaked further open, but there was no sign of Annie.

Every horror movie Josh had ever seen raced through his head. There was no way in hell he was going down through that door into some dark basement.

“I’m just going to head back to the car and wait for you there,” Josh whispered to the darkness, and turned to make his way back to where he had parked.

“Josh wait.” Annie emerged from the darkness of the doorway. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to freak you out.”

Josh turned around, and looked hard at Annie. Her expression was one of sincere apology.

“I guess I got a little carried away. I just love this place. Do you know it’s haunted?” Annie eyes sparkled in the dimness of the stairway.

Taking in his surrounding, Josh could indeed believe this place was home to many ghosts.

Seeing that Josh was still firmly planted where he stood, Annie held up her hand, which held a set of keys. “I didn’t break in, if that’s what you’re worried about. I have a set of keys from when I worked here last summer.”

“You worked here?”

“Yeah, as a tour guild. I like to come by at night sometimes and see it in the full moon. The Hall always looks the best under the light of the moon.”

Josh looked around again. He didn’t think the place looked all that great. A little run down actually. “How much longer do you want to stay?” He asked, “I’m kind of ready to go. I still need to pack.”

“I just want to show you more last thing.”

“Down there?”

“Yes. Down here.”

Shit, Josh thought. I guess it’s just entering. That’s not as bad as breaking in too.

Sighing, Josh started down the stairs to Annie.

The darkness of the narrow hallway gave way to flickering candlelight of thirty plus thick white tapers distributed around the large open room. “When did you have time to light all these?”

Annie didn’t answer, but kept walking until she was on the far side of the room, her long wavy hair bouncing softly in the dancing light.

Josh stood just inside the threshold of the room, trepidation slowly creeping into his stomach again. “How did you get all these lit?” He asked again. They had only been separated a few minutes, hardly enough time to ignite all the candles that stood alight before him.

Annie slowly turned to face Josh, “I have my ways.” She set the keys on a nearby stone table resembling an altar.

“Um, where exactly are we?” Josh asked nervously. He hadn’t told anyone where he was going. No one at the hotel, the bar. No one even knew about Annie.

“Do you know anything about Rose Hall, Josh?” Annie asked, walking slowly towards him, her fingers gently trailing over the smooth top of the altar.

The feeling of trepidation was growing to outright creeping fear at this point. “Not much. I know it’s an old plantation home,” Josh said, relieved his voice sounded more steady than he felt.

“It was built in the 1750s by a man named Henry for his wife Rosa. Over the years, the house changed hands to various family members until it came to John Rose Palmer who married a twenty year old.”

The flickering light and smoke were starting to give Josh a headache. “That’s very interesting” he lied, rubbing his temples.

“Shortly after they were married,” Annie continued, “John Palmed died, mysteriously, leaving everything to his young wife. Alone and in charge of two hundred slaves, she ran the sugarcane plantation with an iron fist. Severely beating those who disobeyed her, or simply failed to carry out her orders. Sometimes she would even torture them before she had them executed.”

Josh’s head was swimming now. Was it hot in here? Maybe it was just the candles. And that smell? Had it been here when they entered? Josh didn’t think so. It was an odor of fear mixed with blood and sweat.

“She sounds absolutely charming. Listen, I need to get some fresh air. This place is beginning to smell like a dungeon.” As soon as the words left his mouth, he knew where they were standing.

Taking in the room a second time, Josh noticed manacles and chains bolted to the walls in several places. An iron cage in the shape of a person with spikes along the inside hung from the celling on the far side of the room near where Annie stood.

“Christ. Is there where she tortured people?”

Annie ignored him, continuing her story, “About a year after she inherited the plantation, she began to practice voodoo, earning her the title, The White Witch of Rose Hall. She married twice more, using these men, along with slaves, as a means of furthering her craft. Her goal was to live forever in her beautiful Jamaica. She often took some of the more handsome slaves as lovers, using them until they bored her, when she would execute them. One such handsome slave caught her off guard, and stabbed her while she slept. Unfortunately for him, he had used her ceremonial knife, which bound him to her until a suitable replacement could be found.”

“Alright Annie. I’m officially done. This macabre shit ends now. I’m leaving. I’ll wait twenty minutes for you at the car, and if you don’t show up by then, you’re on your own. It’s been a blast.” Josh turned to leave, and found himself face to face with a large, bare-chested man.

Startled, Josh uttered a small cry and jumped back a few steps. “What the hell Annie! Who’s this? What’s going on,” the creeping feeling of dread vanished into a full-blown desire to flee. This was some sort of set up; woo a lonely traveler into coming to some remote location where they rob him blind and leave him for dead.

Annie looked over at the new arrival, “Oh, he’s mine.”

“Yours? What the hell do you mean yours? You mean your partner,” Josh started to take his wallet out of his pocket. Maybe he could just give them all his cash and credit cards, and they would let him go. He was leaving tomorrow anyway. Maybe he could convince them he wouldn’t go to the police.

“No, I mean I purchased him for $5,500,” she replied. “A steep price, but well worth it. I mean, just look at him. He’s beautiful.”

Josh blinked hard, trying to clear his head. He quickly took the stranger in. His skin was dark and showed signs of years of abuse. Thick ropey scars crisscrossed his stomach and chest creating a ghoulish pattern.

“Are those lash marks?” Josh asked anxiously. He was having trouble catching his breath. It was like all the air was being syphoned from the room.

From her position next to the altar, Annie tilted her head to the side, as if in contemplation and nodded, “They are. I’ve always found it’s better to break the new ones so they’re less likely to test the boundaries, but that didn’t work with you, did it Couba my love?”

Couba didn’t move. He didn’t blink. He really didn’t seem to be breathing. The tall, well built man who had emerged from the darkness of the hall stood perfectly still.

“He didn’t know when he killed me, he would be bound to me for the next two hundred years,” Annie’s voice was right in Josh’s ear. Gasping in surprise, Josh went to take a step forward, but Couba grabbed Josh and held him still.

Annie’s pressed herself into Josh’s back, coiling her arms around his neck. Something cold and metallic brushed against the stubble just below his ear.

I just shaved this afternoon, Josh thought wildly, and I already need to shave again.

“Usually I would only keep one of my boys around for a few weeks or so before I disposed of them, but Couba and I have been together for much, much too long. We both need a change. Finally an opportunity presented itself that coincided with the heavens. Now he will be released, and you my sweet Josh, you will take his place.”

Before Josh could protest further, Annie slashed his throat. Couba held tight to Josh as the life gushed out of him. The last thing he saw before death finally took him was the unmistakable sorrow in Couba’s eyes.


* * *
“Ma’am, I understand your position, and sympathize with you, but all I can do is tell you what we do know,” Sargeant Alexander Williams said to the distraught and frustrated woman on the other end of the telephone. God, how he hated calls like this. No matter how well you rehearsed them in your head, they never sounded right when actually said aloud.

Sighing internally, Sargent Williams repeated what he had just told the woman, “We found his car at the Rose Hall in Montego Bay. It was locked and there appeared to be no signs of a struggle. All of his belonging with the exception of his wallet, and room key were accounted for. He hadn’t packed for his trip back to the States, but he had checked into his flight, so it looks like he had planned on coming home.”

“Of course he was coming home!” yelled the forlorn mother on the other end.

“We will continue to look for him. The island isn’t that big, so if he’s here, we’ll find him. You say he was a strong swimmer?”

At that the woman was reduced to inarticulate sobs. Sighing, Sargent Williams rubbed his forehead with his free hand. He would be stopping by the bar on the way home from work.

“Hello?” this time it was a man’s voice. “I’m sorry, my wife is very upset.”

“Understandably so sir” Williams replied, “We are doing everything in our power to locate your son Josh. Was he a strong swimmer sir?”

“Yes, he was a very strong swimmer. He competed both in high school and college. Do you think he may have drowned?” the man sounded close to tears.

“It’s a very good possibility. He was parked at a resort next to the ocean. If he had gone for a swim at night alone, then it is very possible. Especially if someone isn’t familiar with the currents.”

There was silence from the other end. Williams waited.

“We’re planning on flying out next week. We just need to get a few things in order here. Did you get the picture we sent?”

“Yes sir, I have it right here,” Williams picked up the color printout of Josh Teller. He was a handsome man of 28 with dark brown hair, light brown eyes with a touch of green around the pupils.

“OK, well I guess let us know if anything turns up,” Mr. Teller said, sadness filling his voice.

“I will call you personally sir,” Williams replied.

 

Author’s Note

Earlier this year I visited the Curacao and decided that a ghost story from the tropics might be fun for Dueling Librarians. However, while I couldn’t find any actual ghost stories from the island I visited, I did find an intriguing haunted tale from Jamaica.

Annie Palmer, a real historical figure, was born in the Netherlands, grew up in Haiti, and then at twenty married John Rose Palmer, and became the mistress of a sugarcane plantation in Jamaica. Shortly after they were married, John Palmer died mysteriously, as did Annie’s two subsequent husbands. She was well known for her brutality, routinely torturing and executing any slave that didn’t live up to expectation. She was also known for her voracious sexual appetite and would take the most handsome slaves as her lovers until she tired of them. It was just one of these slaves that took her life (for an alternative version of this story, visit: Unknown Explorers. Legend has it that she also practiced voodoo, earning her the name, White Witch of Rose Hall.

For those of you who have actually visited Jamaica and Rose Hall, you may find some discrepancies between what you saw, and my story. I have never been to Jamaica, and was limited by images for what I was describing. I have no idea what the dungeon looks like, and I do believe it has been transformed into Hall’s (now turned museum), gift shop.

As for the name of the unfortunate Couba, I got his name from a marriage contract listing the property of the couple.

Originally published March 31, 2014 on DuelingLibrarians.net

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