About 800 meters from our doors, just hugging the border between Oudenaarde and Wortegem-Petegem lies a haunted house. The house is barely visible during the summer months, however between October- April the foliage on the vines and trees is sparse enough to see the decrepit manor home. It does turn a few heads, everybody who sees it asks about it’s story, it’s actually one of the most frequent non-cycling or Belgian life related questions that we get. So since it’s Halloween we thought it was the perfect time to reveal the story about the house and it’s occupants past and present.
First off I will tell you that the castle was built near to the site of a previous 16th century castle known as the “Praetorium De Mooregem”. The current castle’s last occupants were politician Baron Alberic Ruzette and his wife Baroness Berthe Ruzette van Caloen de Basselghem.
Legend has it that the estate is haunted by the ghost of the Barons widow. It is said that the well respected politician was poisoned by one of his competitors on the eve of the May 25th 1929 election. The Baroness swore she would find out who was responsible, and would avenge her husbands death. Unfortunately the Baroness was already a 60 year old woman at this time, it was no longer as easy for her to manipulate politicians like she once was able to in her youth. Instead she returned to their estate in Moregem in desperate search of answers, but to no avail, in fact many believed that the grief of losing her husband had caused her to lose her mind.
During World War II the estate was occupied by the Nazis and left damaged, and fell further into neglect upon the Baroness’ return to the Moregem estate. As the years passed she continued to wait for answers, hoping that her husbands killer would confess on their death bed. But the day came in 1952 when the last competitor passed away, as did the last of the Baroness’ hope. Shortly afterwards she too passed away, but she never left the manor…
Locals say that when the wind is just right they can hear the Baronesses ghost crying out for answers as to who killed her husband.
Ok so I confess that some of that might be a slight fabrication of the truth…. in fact it’s all fiction really.
We do know that the Baron did die on the eve of the May 25th 1929 election, that his widow did die in 1952, and that the estate was occupied and damaged during the Nazi occupation, but that’s about it. There is no ghost of the Baron’s widow, no scheme to off the Baron, and no reason for us to believe that the Baroness lost her mind. We also have no idea how much time the Baroness actually spent at the Moregem estate after her husbands death. We do know that they had eleven children, and probably many homes so we have no idea if the Baroness died at the estate in Moregem or not.
The real truth is that we were able to uncover zero dirt on this creepy looking home, and thought that twisting history a little bit might be a fun way to celebrate Halloween.
Now for those of you who are only interested in the facts here you go…
The Castle of Moregem lies in the historically classified village of Moregem in the community of Wortegem-Petegem. It was was built close to the site of an earlier moated Renaissance style castle from 1588 known as ‘Praetorium De Mooregem’.
The current castle was built between 1792 and 1798 by order of it’s first resident Baron E.F van Hoobrouck de Mooreghem as a “play castle” perfect for a holiday retreat. It was completed in the neoclassical architecture styles of Louis XVI and Directoire styles by architects J.Pisson and F.L.J Verly.
The site includes the castle, walled English style park, iron fence (no longer present), iron bridge, forest hunting grounds, service buildings, stables, grotto, ice house, watermill from 1853, farm, chapel, and the former gate house which has recently been restored in neo-gothic style.
Residents of the estate include a long list of nobility starting with Baron Eugene-Francois van Hoobruck de Mooreghem a man who wore many hats over his lifetime (Baron of Moregem, Lord of Axelwalle, Aspere, and Zingem,, Treasurer General of Gent, Deputy of the States of Flanders, General Council of the Department of the Leie, member of the Knighthood of East Flanders, member of the National Congress, and Senator), his son Baron Eugen van Hoobrouck de Mooreghem, Baron Charles Marie de Croeser de Berges, Baron Paul van Caloen de Basselghem, and Belgian Minister Baron Alberic Ruzette. It had also been occupied by the Nazi’s during World War II, and unfortunately was damaged at that time.
The last occupant of the castle was the wife of Baron Alberic Ruzette; Baroness Berthe Ruzette van Caloen de Basselghem who passed away in 1952. The estate was sold off in 1953, and at that time a small forest of Canadian Poplar trees was planted on site. Since being sold, the grounds had been used as grazing land for small livestock, the manor as a warehouse at one point, and some of the surrounding buildings as residences, though for the most part the estate was neglected and left deserted. It wasn’t until 1997 that the site was listed as a protected monument and landmark, but of course the damage had been done and 40+ years of neglect had left the estate looking as it does now. We have no idea if there are plans of bringing the castle back to life or not.
So that was the slightly boring non-scandalous answer to the question, though we don’t believe for a second that such a place could possibly have such a squeaky clean past. We will just have to keep digging around for the ‘real story’ of why it was left to deteriorate. Surely that long list of Barons couldn’t have been saintly.
Does anybody else think that it would make an amazing ChainStay 2.0? Anyone bored enough to help us take on such a gargantuan project? No? Didn’t think so… anyways Happy Halloween everyone, and remember to stay safe!