Overview

Fancy yourself to be a bit of a ghost hunter? Regional Victoria is home to a heap of spooky sites, where ghostly apparitions and paranormal personalities linger on, long after their time on earth has passed.

The state's most haunted buildings and sites tend to have a tragic past. Explore abandoned asylums and ghostly gaols, haunted by former prisoners and patients. Take a walk through creepy cemeteries, dating back to the 1850s. Spend a night in a haunted hotel, and explore historic mining towns, once bustling epicentres of the Victorian gold rush era, now almost-ghost towns in more ways than one.

Some sites are only available to the public via organised tours. A visit during late-autumn or on a chilly winter's day (or night!) will certainly help set a more macabre mood.

Ghostly gaols and abandoned asylums

Operating until 1998, Aradale Lunatic Asylum is Australia's biggest abandoned mental institution. Thirteen thousand patients and staff are said to have died over its 140 year history, some of whom are reported to have never left the site. Today, tours are available within the historic buildings of the asylum. Thrill seekers can tour the J Ward, where the criminally insane were housed in often horrific conditions.

Formerly known as the Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum, the decommissioned Beechworth Asylum is reputedly one of the most haunted buildings in Australia. Founded in 1867, it closed its doors as recently as 1995, and thousands of patients are thought to have perished within its walls. The ghosts of past patients, a male doctor and a kind matron have been spotted haunting its halls. The building can only be accessed through guided tours, with occasional overnight events. 

The asylum isn't Beechworth's only supernatural site. The Old Beechworth Gaol was open and operating from 1864 to as recently as 2004. It played a significant role in the chain of events leading to Ned Kelly's execution, housing not only the famous bushranger but also his mother Ellen, brother Dan and the rest of the Kelly clan, shortly after their famous showdown. Jump on a guided tour to learn more about the building's history and the colourful characters imprisoned within its walls.

The notorious Geelong Gaol closed its doors to visitors in 1991, reopening as a museum shortly after. Scores of both prisoners and staff lost their lives here, and a total of six executions were held onsite. Those who visit the gaol for ghost tours and paranormal investigations report hearing strange noises and experiencing 'odd' vibes.

Haunted hotels

Built as the Criterion Hotel in 1861, Dunolly's Railway Hotel is said to be haunted by the spirit of an elderly woman. If you sit on a bed on the upper level, you may feel a paranormal shove as she tries to get to the window.

The Royal Hotel was one of Seymour's first buildings, dating to the late 1840s. Its colourful history includes a tenure as a morgue, and rumours of supernatural spectres have lingered for decades.

It's not only restless human souls possessing some of these sites. The picturesque Kangaroo Hotel in the historic goldfields town of Maldon is said to be haunted by the spirits of 10 horses, who perished in a tragic stable fire in the 1870s.

Fortuna Villa in Bendigo was built in 1855 during the gold rush and in later times used primarily by the Australian Army. It's reportedly the site of many strange sounds and spooky spectres, one of which is believed to be the ghost of George Lansell, a founder of Bendigo. The mansion now functions as an events space and hosts regular High Teas.

Victorian ghost towns

Almost-ghost towns are scattered around regional Victoria, remnants of the state's gold rush era. Thriving hubs in their heyday, most are now home to a small number of residents and a good spooky story or two.

The historic gold-mining town of Steiglitz, around an hour's drive from Melbourne on the way to Geelong, housed 1500 residents at its peak. A small handful remain today. Steiglitz Historic Park can be explored during the day or at night, either self-guided or as part of a tour.

Former mining town Linton, 33 kilometres from Ballarat, is home to a few hundred residents. Cycle along the Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail, go for a bushwalk or explore the local cemetery while you're here. Graves date back to the 1860s and the site contains a large Chinese burial section, the final resting place of miners who travelled to this region of the world, pursuing dreams of wealth and fortune.

A 15-minute drive from the regional hub of Castlemaine, Fryerstown was a boom town in its own right, with more than 15,000 residents during the gold rush. The site is full of beautiful examples of late 1800s architecture, such as the Court House and Mechanic's Institute. Remaining structures include church buildings, mine ruins and the local cemetery.

Travel through Gippsland to visit Walhalla, with a top pop of around 20 permanent residents. The town is known for its historic and well-preserved buildings, beautiful autumn foliage and spring blooms, and its sprawling old cemetery, the only one in Australia to have been placed on the side of a hill. Some 1100 souls are buried in these grounds, with graves dating back to the 1870s. Watch out for the cursed grave of James Mitchell, bearing the description: 'Oh let my sudden doom a warning be to all. Here while thou bendeth over my tomb, thou may quickly fall.' Discover more about Walhalla's spooky history by jumping on a local Saturday-night ghost tour.

The mystery of Hanging Rock

The eroded remains of an extinct volcano less than an hour from Melbourne, famed Hanging Rock is best known as the setting for the novel (and subsequent movie and TV series) Picnic at Hanging Rock. There has long been speculation that the fictional story was based in fact; author Joan Lindsay is said to have been inspired by disappearances of local women in the 1800s.

For the region's Indigenous people, the ancient volcano is an important site, both culturally and spiritually, for sacred ceremonies and initiations.

The area is open daily for hikes and picnics (if you dare) and hosts occasional large-scale events. Visitors have claimed that watches and electronic devices malfunction on approaching Hanging Rock, further fuelling the mystery and intrigue surrounding the area.

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