Ghosts have long been a popular subject in central Victoria. Even in the late Goldfields era, belief in ghosts, ghost stories and hauntings were popular subjects for entertainment and attracted significant attention in the printed press and public gatherings and lectures. In a sense Ballarat was a 'haunted' city from very early in its coloniel history. With such a demand and popular interest in ghosts, Ballarat also became a hot bed of spiritualism and ghost hoaxing. This paper examines the history and context of ghost hoaxing in nineteenth-century colonial Victoria with a focus on Ballarat and the central Victorian region.
The discovery of gold at Ballarat in 1851 conferred incredible wealth on the community, the colony and the British Empire. Ballarat was literally a city 'built on gold'. However, the immigrants who made their fortunes from gold rarely indulged in conspicuous private displays of consumption. The exception was William Bailey. His Italianate mansion, completed in 1883, reflected his great success in speculative mining ventures in the Ballarat area.