Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital in Belgian Limburg

Copyright Karen Baijens

Copyright Karen Baijens

This week’s photograph comes to us from Belgium-based Dutch photographer Karen Baijens.  Karen is an avid urban explorer and her journeys often send her to lost and abandoned places.  One of these journeys sent her to an old building in Belgian Limburg, built in 1830.  Karen writes:

“The building has been used for many purposes.  From 1921 until 1980, it was used as a psychiatric hospital.  Since 1980 it has been abandoned.  The place inspired me so much that I also used it for a wedding shoot.”

Abandoned psychiatric hospitals are some of the most photographed of all lost places.  They combine many elements that make an abandoned building fascinating: an interesting history, unique construction, and an element of fear.  It is hard to argue that few places are as fundamentally frightening as old psychiatric treatment facilities, due in part to the frightening history of how the mentally ill have been treated.  Photographs of forgotten psychiatric hospitals can easily conjure up images of shock tubs, straight-jackets, and secretive experiments on the mentally ill. The sad truth is that, for much of human history, the mentally ill were treated quite poorly.  Old psychiatric hospitals are a tangible reminder of that past.  Regardless of how patients were treated in any particular hospital, these abandoned hospitals were once places where real patients experienced real suffering at the hands of mental illness.  Urban explorers often wonder what would happen if walls could talk–few places give the feeling of lost stories more than the psychiatric hospital.

Abandoned Stairs in Wendt, South Dakota

Photo Copyright Alex Benison

Copyright Alex Benison

This week Lost Places goes back to the Dakotas–this time to South Dakota.  This fantastic shot was taken by Denver-based photographer Alex Benison in Wendt, South Dakota.  More of his work can be found at alexbenison.imagekind.com.  Alex found the house during a trip down gravel-strewn Bad River Road in central South Dakota.  The road, a 45-mile stretch between Fort Pierre and Midland, is something of a photographer’s dream.  The stretch includes prairies, waterways, herds of buffalo, and even a ghost town.

The ghost town is Capa, South Dakota, which by all reports was never really that big anyway.  The nearby bison belong to Ted Turner, founder of CNN, and owner of the 141,357-acre ranch.  The ranch features native grassland, rolling hills, and a wide assortment of wildlife, including elk, mountain lions, coyotes, prairie chickens, pheasant, and grouse.

The mouth of the Bad River is historically significant.  It was there that explorers Lewis and Clark encountered the Teton Sioux, a nomadic and warlike branch of the Sioux Nation, led by Chief Black Buffalo.  War and epidemic eventually took its toll on the Teton Sioux–and from the looks of this photograph, time is taking its toll on this house.