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.
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.