Generations of Australians have grown up with the legend of Eureka and the familiar images of the gold rush in central Victoria. However, underneath these commonly known stories lies a stranger and darker past. As well as colonists, pioneers, soldiers and rebal miners, the colonial goldfields were home to spiritualists, secret societies, ghost-hoxers, bunyip legends and murderers. There are also the stories of those often forgotten in the goldfield histories - Indigenous peoples, immigrant communities, homosexuals, and the mentally ill. 'Goldfields and the gothic' is an anthology by local historians of the long buried legends, histories and folklore of the Victorian goldfields and their legacy today. Every historian has a collection of strange, buried pieces of history; this work begins the task of bringing them into the light.
There has been significant new literature on the experience of women and lesbians on the Goldfields but very little has been published on the experience of homosexual men. However, despite being a capital offence until 1864 and a criminal act until the 1980s, records from the mid-ninteenth-century indicate there was a well-established, perhaps even flourishing, culture of male homosexuality on Victoria's Goldfields. This culture had its origins in the long established and distinct underground 'gay' subculture of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century of Great Britain, 'Molly houses'. These illegal bars and taverns, essentially served a function as the gay bars of their day.