Caribbean haunts spotlight in Halloween list

The Rose Hall Great House in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Photo courtesy of www.jamaicagetawaytravels.com

When Bob Marley sang “there’s a natural mystic blowing through the air,” he was not recording a warning about Halloween or making any reference to All Hallows Eve.

However, in the spirit of Halloween, USA Today, one of the most prominent national newspapers in America managed to shine a spotlight on the Caribbean and some of the destinations that harbor myths and mysteries surrounding ghoulish occurrences.

Although none is as musical as the wailing message from the king of reggae, Jamaica tops the list of destinations that creepy tales lurk with local folks.

“The rest of the region hadn’t a ghost of a chance of competing with Jamaica in the publication’s roundup of “things that go bump in the night,” a report stated.

Beginning with the story of the infamous “White Witch of Rose Hall” – and possibly the Caribbean’s first serial killer – Annie Palmer, who presided over the mansion located in Montego Bay, eerie tales dominate the daily retelling to tourists who pay a fee to tour the restored Great House.

According to the tale, inside the Georgian mansion built in 1770, an English woman ruled. According to the newspaper account, Palmer “was a ruthless mistress, practicing voodoo and torture, murdering her three husbands and then taking up with her slaves, who she would poison when she grew tired of them.

“Even today, there are accounts of mysterious bloodstains appearing on the floors, whispers, footsteps and the wailings of distressed infants.

“Some claim to have seen a ghostly rider clad in green velvet, galloping across the grounds at night astride a black horse. Local scuttlebutt in Montego Bay claims that in decades no one has dared spend a full night alone in the house.

“Musical legend Johnny Cash was so impressed by the stories of the White Witch of Jamaica that he wrote a song about her, ‘The Ballad of Annie Palmer.”

Through decades after her death, the mansion remained a source of fear. Local Jamaicans refused to even walk by the ruins that stood as a reminder of the reputed White Witch.

An enterprising American capitalized on the myth by restoring the vast property that is now a major tourist attraction.

On the opposite end of the island, the former pirate haven of Port Royal was once known as “The Wickedest City in Christendom” and many claimed it was divine retribution when the area was devastated by a massive earthquake in 1692.

“Most ghost stories take place at night, when shadows add an element of confusion and mystery to sightings of apparitions. Not in Port Royal; locals believe ghosts of those killed in the earthquake still roam the earth, appearing on days when the sun is at its brightest.”

Barbados gets a mention with the world famous moving coffins mystery at the Chase Vault in the graveyard of Christ Church Parish Church.

“Thomas Chase, by all accounts a cruel patriarch, buried his two young daughters in the crypt. He died soon after, in 1812, and when the crypt was opened to receive its new occupant, pallbearers saw that the coffins of the two daughters looked as though they had lurched violently around the room.

“At first residents thought vandals had broken into the crypt. But even after the crypt was mortared shut, subsequent openings revealed the coffins had moved about, with the coffin of one daughter having shattered into bits.

“By 1820 the remaining members of the Chase family had seen enough, and the coffins were buried elsewhere. Some claim that Thomas Chase was such an evil father that his two daughters couldn’t abide being in the same room with him, even after they’d had been reduced to unhappy spirits.”

Nevis also makes the list.

“For a century and a half, no one has dared live on the Eden Browne Estate.

“The plantation property was built in the 18th century and thrived on sugar and cotton crops. Walter Maynard was preparing to marry his bride, Julia Huggins, at the estate. At the time, the two families were two of the most powerful families on the island and the marriage would be as much a business merger as a romantic union. The plan after the nuptials was to rechristen the estate, Eden Browne’s Eden.

“On the day of the wedding, Huggins and his best man — Julia’s brother — had an argument that escalated into a duel. There was no winner and both perished in the contest. The would-be bride never married, heartbroken over the deaths of her betrothed and brother, and lived out the rest of her years as a recluse at the estate. Over the years, there have been numerous accounts of seeing the ghost of Julia Huggins wandering forlornly across the plantation grounds.”

Nassau in the Bahamas edges in another grave assertion that the ghost of Blackbeard roams the region. Revered as one of the most feared and blood-thirsty pirates ever to sail the Spanish Main, the haunting location to happen upon the pirate is at the Old Fort.

No Caribbean creep-show is complete without a glimpse into the twilight shadows of Haiti.

“Haiti has a well-known voodoo heritage — the country of the original walking dead — and frightened onlookers have been stopped in their tracks when they’ve come face to face with corpses staggering through the City Cemetery of Port-au-Prince.”

And for brawta, a Spanish-language Caribbean island names Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan, Hotel El Convento as the former Carmelite convent dating back to the 17th century. It is said to be haunted by the founder of the convent and its Mother Superior, Doña Ana de Lansos y Menéndez de Valdez. Allegedly, “Guests at the luxury hotel report that they can sometimes hear the sounds of the swishing of nuns’ robes on the floors and corridors of the hotel.”

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