The dark history of the infamous Aradale Mental Hospital is being explored once again, with a new book out this month.
Aradale: The Making of a Haunted Asylum, is written by folklorist and Federation University senior lecturer Dr David Waldron; his mother, psychotherapist Sharn Waldron; and Eerie Tours manager Nathaniel Buchanan.
"The project started from a conversation with my mother," Dr Waldron said.
"I wanted to investigate how ghost stories emerge from traumatic experiences.
"How could a place designed with the best of intentions become a place configured as a haunted site?
"She looked at Aradale from her psychology background and her insight on issues invaluable.
"The book investigates how asylums became a focal point of fear.
"Fear of the mentally ill and becoming mentally ill."
Aradale Mental Hospital, formerly known as the Ararat Lunatic Asylum, was first opened in 1865, housing more than 900 patients and employed about 500 people.
The poor man died there; all he was doing is pointing out the issues.Sharn Waldron, co-author of 'Aradale: The Making of a Haunted Asylum'.
While it was closed in 1998, it is still visited today for ghost tours and historical visits.
Dr Waldon said the trope of asylums being a dark, gloomy institution became ingrained in popular culture from as early as the 1860s.
"You only have to look at Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' or H. P. Lovecraft's 'Cthulhu' to see how society views asylums," he said.
"Ghost stories are a way communities tell stories of trauma; these stories evolve over time."
One story of trauma that resonates with Dr Waldon was of Ballarat woman Matilda Cutler.
"She was placed in the Asylum during the 1880s for high anxiety," he said.
"Upon her release, she spoke to the newspapers about the abuse taking place and the culture of corruption.
"She spoke quite articulately about spending time in seclusion (solitary confinement) for up to 12 hours a day, but her logbook would always read '8'.
"However, it was written like a kid writing outlines at school, as if it was scribbled en masse, after the fact.
"She said the issues at the asylum were complex, with 1000 of staff members and multiple wards, and therefore it was not a simple story."
A Jungian analyst, Sharn Waldron, said she was intrigued by the psychiatric hospital's good intentions when it first opened in 1965.
"I think the thing that appealed to me about Aradale was the high ideals of the asylum that never came to fruition," she said.
"It was quite an eerie place - it didn't come across as compassionate - and you have to ask 'how did that happen'?
"Carl Jung talks about the shadows of ourselves - the things we don't like.
"We put the shadow of ourselves onto others and that can be done at a collective level."
Mrs Waldron said the demise of Dr Carr, an English psychologist who worked at the asylum, was a tale that resonates with her.
"One day Dr Carr had an argument with his supervisor; he was complaining about the conditions," she said.
"He was basically a whistleblower ... they made him a patient.
"He was 'bagged' for some time - this meant you were placed in a large bag with just your head poking out from the top.
"Afterwards, he wrote about having to defecate in the bag and having rats gnaw at his toes at night.
"The poor man died there; all he was doing is pointing out the issues."
An established author with several titles under his belt, Dr Waldon said researching regional history is much more enjoyable now than it was when he first started his career in the 1990s.
"Writing books is much easier now with the advent of Trove," Dr Waldon said.
"When I was working on a book in England, I spent days manually looking through newspapers on microfiche.
"I'm also eternally grateful to Judy Barry in Ballarat who collected a lot of articles from the Ararat Advertiser."
Aradale: The Making of a Haunted Asylum is available for purchase online and through the Eerie Tours from July 16. It will be launched locally on July 18.