It is said that Victoria’s historic goldfields are some of the most haunted places on Earth.

Federation University’s Senior Lecturer in History, Dr David Waldron, agrees. “Ghost stories abound on the goldfields,” he says. “It was a place where the Aboriginal people were displaced. It was a place of high crime and violence. There was no real policing until the 1870s.” “People died in accidents, of typhoid, diphtheria and not to mention the women who died in childbirth. If we don’t engage with the trauma of the past, it can emerge as ghost stories.”

Dr Waldron is appearing at the inaugural Goldfields Gothic in Maldon (1-3 July), a festival of dark ideas, with events, tours, performances, dinners and displays. The festival includes tours of the Maldon cemetery, bare branch floral workshop, and a talk by Isabella Frappier – sexual activist and pleasure mentor. The ghost busting team from Twisted History will be leading an after dark character themed lantern tour of Maldon’s Main Street. “The Victorian goldfields has such a rich history of nefarious and unscrupulous characters who helped shaped the true history that it is easy to bring them to life at night,” says Deb Robinson from Twisted History.

Meanwhile, over in Kyneton, “Piper Street is a hive of paranormal activity,” says Dolly Adamson from Kyneton Paranormal. She takes people on ghost tours of historic sites including late night tours down the town’s old main drag. Armed with electronic equipment, her aim is to detect anomalies in the surrounding environment. “It is an exceptionally haunted part of Victoria,” she says.

Further south, another location said to be extremely haunted is The Blackwood Hotel. This old weatherboard pub was built in 1859 when the gold fever was in the air. Today it is surrounded by dark towering forest. “Our guests meet here, we have a delicious pub meal together,” says Dolly. “We acknowledge those who came before and have a chat about the pub’s ghost stories. On hand is ghost hunting equipment to detect if something or someone is nearby.” Dolly says people hear footsteps and glasses clinking on the shelves. Playback from electronic audio recording equipment reveals voices not heard at the time. EMR meters show changes in the electromagnetic radiation. “Once a person could see the men’s toilet door opening and closing with no one there,” says Dolly. “We had a medium present and she told us a seriously injured man was brought here by cart when the pub had a morgue. They were not happy dying here.”

Spooky Encounters Maldon uai
Goldfields Gothic Grain Store, maldon

Dolly also takes ghost tours around Creswick starting at Odessa at Leavers Hotel. “There are a few resident ghosts,” says Dolly. “We think, the ‘soiled doves’ are still entertaining the miners.” She’s been on a tour and people have seen heavy steel grates move by themselves. Dolly’s tours run monthly throughout winter and she is available for private tours. “We do everything with utmost respect,” she says. “Even if people don’t believe in the paranormal, the stories we share bring the past alive for everyone.”

One of Daylesford’s most haunted places is The Convent on Wombat Hill. “It is built over a mine and we know three people died there,” says Christine Ferris, psychic and Daylesford Convent Ghost Tour guide. Her tours restart in July and she hopes to see the ghosts of nuns she was able to photograph a few years ago. “People think that nuns, because they were Catholic and believed they would go to purgatory and then heaven, wouldn’t stay around after they died,” says Christine. “But they think Earth is purgatory. We have a Mother Superior follow us making sure we keep quiet, especially in the chapel.”

Not all the region’s hauntings are spine tingling. Duncan Evans, co-owner of the Glenlyon General Store has a good working relationship with the entities that some say continue to inhabit the 1870s gold rush era building. “It was a pub, brewery, brothel,” he says. “Thousands of people have been through here over the century and a half. It can be really spooky here, but also wonderful. Sometimes, after work, I turn out all the lights except one lamp and sit by the fire with a glass of wine and listen to the old girl creak and groan.”

Over at Lyonville, publican Ken Parfrey has been dealing with the spirits who some believe co-habit his Radio Springs Hotel. “People say ghosts gather where people congregate,” says Ken. “Churches, pubs, general stores. When we first took over there were all sorts of things going on, really creepy, they make the hairs on your arms stand up,” he says. “But we made the Radio Springs such a happy place pulling beer off the wood, serving up really good food and turning on great music we don’t hear much of the others anymore. Everybody is having too good a time.”

About the author

Cornish Richard
Richard Cornish

Richard Cornish is an award winning food writer whose love of the land lead him to explore the issues around food, where it comes from, how it gets to us and why some foods taste better than others. He writes for The Age, SMH, DMT Life and has written eight cook books including co-writing the Movida series with Frank Camorra.