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.