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Spooky Jamaican Stories and Legends

by Stephanie Koathes Oct 21, 2019

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Jamaicans are natural storytellers, and our history is long, rich, and complicated, giving us many interesting tales to tell.  We have our fair share of strange and spooky legends too.

Let’s check out some of Jamaica’s most enduring scary stories and legends.

Rolling Calf

Graphic of a calf-like creature with flaming eyes.
Photo credit: Avad_S on AminoApps

Stories of Rolling Calf, a huge calf-like creature with fiery red eyes, dragging a heavy, clanking chain, have been frightening children for many years. These creatures are always male and are thought to be the spirits of people (particularly butchers) who were wicked in life.

Those travelling the countryside at night should be wary, as this terrifying beast might block their way and chase them. Always walk with something a Rolling Calf can count as this is the easiest way to escape. If you drop some items on the ground and it will be compelled to stop and count them.

If you don’t have anything for it to count, run to a crossroads or stick an open penknife in the ground. A Rolling Calf is also said to be deathly afraid of being beaten with a tarred whip held in the left hand.

River Mumma

Two bamboo rafts on the Martha Brae River in Jamaica.

River Mummas live in the waterways of Jamaica, and it is believed that they guard the sources of many of the island’s rivers.

From time to time, River Mumma might leave her watery home and sit on the rocks combing her long hair with a golden comb. Legend has it that if you see a River Mumma, she will put you into a trance, then she’ll grab you and drag you down into the depths of the river. She sometimes might even leave her comb on one of the rocks, to lure victims into her deadly trap.

Flat Bridge

 One of Jamaica’s oldest bridges, Flat Bridge running through the Bog Walk Gorge over the treacherous Rio Cobre, is thought by many to be haunted. During construction back in the 1700s, the 16 plantations around Bog Walk had to send one slave in every 50 to work on the “River Road.” Many slaves died undertaking dangerous tasks.

Some believe that the slaves who died during the Flat Bridge construction still haunt the bridge. People believe that these restless spirits  cause accidents and pull people into the Rio Cobre.

Another legend is that a River Mumma lives in a bottomless hole under the bridge. Some stories blame her for pulling cars down into the murky depths of the river. Others say that it’s the River Mumma’s presence that stops people from putting a railing on the bridge.

Be wary when the water turns lizard-green as something terrible is going to happen.

The White Witch of Rose Hall

Photo of the Rose Hall Great House in Montego Bay, St James

 Annie Palmer, better known as the White Witch of Rose Hall, was once mistress of the Rose Hall plantation in Montego Bay.

According to the tale, Annie was born to an English mother and an Irish father and was trained in voodoo by her nanny while living in Haiti before coming to Jamaica. Legend says that Annie took slaves to her bed and eventually murdered her husband, John Palmer, becoming the owner of Rose Hall. She ruled her slaves cruelly. 

Annie married twice more. Neither her husbands nor her lovers survived; their bodies were said to have been ushered out of the great house by slaves via a secret passageway.  

The feared mistress of Rose Hall was eventually killed by Takoo, a powerful obeah man, whose granddaughter Annie had cursed. Her tomb lies just outside the house.

Rose Hall Great House is considered one of the most haunted places in Jamaica and is on our Ultimate Jamaican Bucket List. Photos taken in her bedroom have been said to show a ghostly face, and you might see her in the mirror.

Annie’s legend was made famous by Herbert G. de Lisser’s novel, The White Witch of Rose Hall.

Ol’ Hige

An Ol’ Hige 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, you need to find her skin and put salt and pepper in it. When the skin has been sprinkled with salt and pepper, it will burn her when she tries to get back in. Without her skin, she can be killed.

Do you remember these stories?

Sources: Travel Channel, Jamaica Travel and Culture, Cultures of Jamaica, Jamaica National Heritage Trust, Jamaican Echoes, Real Jamaica Vacations, Free Webs