Belgium’s castle of Moulbaix was built in 1860 in the southern and French-speaking province of Hainaut. It has no less than 340 windows, looking out over a whopping 62 acres of parks and lands. But it is also known as a haunted castle and stands vacant ever since its last inhabitant, countess Nadine de Spoelberch d’Ursel, died in 2007. Children disappeared, residents committed suicide, passers-by experienced bizarre “force fields,” and so on.
But the castle is also known as a photographer’s paradise. Not surprisingly, it caught the attention of 29-year-old Dutch “urban-obsessed” photographer Roman Robroek. Having a passion for the desolate, the Moulbaix edifice was Roman’s “holy grail” for many years. When he was finally able to step inside, unaware of ghost stories at the time, the place proved to be ideal to capture the beauty of the abandoned.
I travel all across Europe to find the most beautiful abandoned places. Belgium has a lot of them, but this particular one had not yet seen a lot of photographers. So I did my utmost to be one of the few.
“It was everything I was looking forward to, and more,” Roman tells the Australian news website news.com.au. “The top floor was in a lot of decay, and the other two floors were not, except for a lot of dust and cobwebs. This was a great contrast.” In a talk with Resource Travel, Roman sheds some light on his love for abandoned places.
I have always been a curious person, and I have always loved to find out the story behind mysterious places. That didn’t change when I started taking pictures. I just love to take peek behind closed doors, and I love to take other people with me through my pictures.
At the castle of Moulbaix, Roman says he experienced the scare of his lifetime when two French-speaking men suddenly showed up. They started screaming at him and his friends, and it took minutes to calm them down. “Like experiencing a horror movie in real life.” Eventually, the police arrived and escorted the group back to their car. Fortunately, things don’t always get that scary – like that one time in Germany.
After 45 minutes of taking pictures in this villa, police suddenly arrived, yelling we had to come out. We tried to escape via the basement, but there were three officers waiting for us there. When we explained what we were doing, they were visibly impressed. When we showed them some pictures, they told us how surprised they were to discover how awesome it was inside. They probably took a look too when we left.
But things like that rarely happen, Roman claims. He is by nature pretty cautious and “afraid,” and won’t step inside of a building when he senses something fishy.
The photographer has a few more locations left on his bucket list. Top of the list: Chernobyl. Some of his favorite past locations (aside from Moulbaix) were an abandoned power plant in Hungary and an abandoned church in Italy – pictures of which he was happy to share with Resource Travel.
Should you feel inspired to go and capture abandoned beauty in Belgium and beyond, here’s a word of advice from Roman:
Be very aware that it is a dangerous hobby. Not only because it’s usually illegal to enter these properties, but mostly because they usually are in very bad shape. Accidents happen quickly.
Ultimately, when it comes to the gear, Roman uses a Canon EOS 650D and a Canon 10-18mm EF‑S wide‑angle zoom lens. For detailed shots, Roman also has a Canon 50mm, and he has also used his Tamron 90mm once or twice.