Places with violent pasts are magnets for the paranormal, some quality permeating them that draws in the strange and unexplained. Perhaps it is the raw power of the pain and tragedy that has pervaded these locales to create a force with the gravity to pull those who have died here to it. Perhaps it is some memory from another time recorded into the very land and air itself, like a recording on tape or video. No matter the reason, locations intertwined with the brutal and the horrific are very often wellsprings for ghostly tales and strange goings on. One place that certainly fits this description is an estate in Indiana, in the United States, which was once the home and slaughterhouse of a ruthless serial killer, and which seems to continue to harbor both killer and victims, who are allegedly quite eager to speak out and communicate with the living.
The serial killer known as Herb Baumeister got his start in sadistic tendencies from a young age, displaying a range of abnormal behavior such as playing with dead animals or torturing live ones. He also had an antisocial disrespect for authority, allegedly urinating on a teacher’s desk and dumping a dead crow on another’s. By the time he was in his teens he was admitted for a psychiatric evaluation and determined to be suffering from schizophrenia, although little was done to try and treat it by his family at the time. This may have contributed to this bizarre behavior following him up into his adult life, which caused him to be committed to a psychiatric hospital for a period of 2 months in the 1970s, but through all of this he still managed to build a rather normal and successful life, marrying in 1971, having three children, and founding the Sav-A-Lot chain of thrift stores in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1988, allowing him and his family to move out to a spacious and luxurious 18-acre estate in the suburbs called Fox Hollow Farm.
Despite this eventual success, there were definitely mental problems lurking in the background and interspersed throughout his life, and he routinely displayed odd behavior throughout the years, such as dressing in drag at inappropriate times and urinating on a letter that he sent to then-governor of Indiana, Robert D. Orr, an incident that got him fired from his former job at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in 1984. He also had some run-ins with the law, including a driving under the influence charge and an auto theft charge, both of which he was able to beat. Although no one would have known it at the time, there also seems to have been a rather dark side to Baumeister, and it seems he was leading an ominous double life.
In the 1990s there was a spate of mysterious vanishings concerning gay men in the Indianapolis area, with all of the missing men determined to be the same height, weight, and of the same general appearance, which fit a particular pattern and raised suspicions that a serial killer could be on the loose, although no corpses had actually shown up and the men were officially just listed as missing at first. Eventually some corpses were found in Indiana and Ohio, but these could not be connected in any way. Unfortunately, at the time authorities were less than motivated to investigate the disappearances and deaths of gay men, which undoubtedly slowed progress on the case.
Police received an important tip in relation to these disappearances in 1993, when a gay bar customer claimed that a mystery man known only as “Brian Smart” had killed his friend with a pool hose and had tried to kill him as well. Despite this lead, police had no idea who this Brian Smart was, had only a vague description, and the potential suspect could not be located. At this time nobody at all would have suspected Baumeister, as he was a successful and rich business man and family man with a wife and children, although things were about to take a turn for the worse when in 1994 his business began to go under and he was arrested for drinking and driving again.
His family life was also disintegrating somewhat, with his wife sick of his drinking and bizarre behavior, and a strange incident would also come up when Baumeister’s 13-year-old son found a human skull in the backyard of their sprawling property. At the time, Herb explained that it was a piece of a medical skeleton that had been left to him by his late father, who had been in the medical field. The family actually believed this wild story, but oddly the remains suddenly vanished, which was explained away as wild animals dragging it off and the whole weird episode was forgotten. In retrospect, this was probably the first real sign that something was very, very wrong with Herb Baumeister.
1995 saw another report from a gay bar patron claiming to have been attacked by the mysterious Brian Smart, and a police stakeout of the bar in question would net them a liscence plate number of a suspicious individual who they believed to be Smart. When the number was run through the system it showed that the owner of the vehicle was a Herb Baumeister and that no Brian Smart even existed at all. Authorities immediately went to Fox Hollow Farm to ask to search the premises but they were refused, and with no evidence other than Herb being at a gay bar, police were forced to back down. Despite Baumeister's wife’s suspicions that something weird was going on, what with the skull that had been found and all, she at this point decided to stand by her husband in the face of him being considered a suspect for murder.
After that, Baumeister’s business continued to decline, finally going out of business and closing its doors in 1996. This caused him to spiral into depression, and his behavior, which had always been odd and unpredictable to begin with, got even worse to the point that Julie, who had long put up with it admirably, had had enough. She filed for divorce and it was at this time that she finally decided to contact police and consent to the property being searched while Herb was out of town for a few days. It was to be a gruesome rude awakening for her, a treasure trove of horrors that reverberates through crime history to this day.
Police would eventually discover the scattered remains of 11 dead men concealed by brush or buried all over the property, only 8 of whom were ever identified, and it was suspected that he had killed many more and dumped their bodies in other areas of Indiana and Ohio, to which he had taken frequent business trips. In light of these horrific discoveries a picture was pieced together of what Baumeister had been doing. It was suspected that Baumeister would go cruising for men at gay bars and bring his victims back to the pool house at his estate, where he would ply them with alcohol and then strangle them to death, discarding the bodies in the woods on the property or along interstates. A hidden video camera was found at the pool house, and although no tapes could be located it is thought that Baumeister likely had used it to record the murders.
When police went to apprehend Baumeister it was found that he had fled to Ontario, Canada, where he had a run in with a Canadian trooper as he slept in his car on July 2, 1996. Baumeister told the trooper that he was just a tourist passing through, but he was seen as suspicious and the trooper would later claim that there had been a large stack of video tapes in the back seat. However, considering that Baumeister had not done anything wrong the Canadian trooper was forced to allow him to continue on his way. The very next day, Baumeister went to Pinery Provincial Park and killed himself with a .357 magnum. The 3-page suicide note he left behind cited family and financial woes as the reason for his decision to kill himself, with no mention made of the killings he was wanted for and no admission.
Although Baumeister never admitted to the gruesome crimes he was accused of, there was still plenty of evidence to suspect that he had indeed killed at least 11 people, and probably up to 9 more. Authorities were eager to have a look at those video tapes the Canadian trooper had claimed to have seen, but it was found that Baumeister’s car had no such videos in it, and it is thought that he had disposed of them somewhere before his death. The videos have never been recovered and we will probably never know what was on them. And so came to an end the life of a savage serial killer, but this would seemingly not be the end of him, and it appears that death was only the beginning for Herb Baumeister.
In 2009, a Rob and Vicky Graves bought the Fox Hollow Farm estate, despite full well knowing the gruesome history of the property, and they were soon joined by Rob’s colleague from work, Joe Le Blanc, who they rented one of the property’s apartments to, along with his dog. It was not long at all before it became apparent that there was something very strange about their new home, and various paranormal activity started up almost immediately. It started with incredibly realistic, intense nightmares in which something was chasing them and which were so potent that in one case Joe bolted out of bed to smash his head on a doorframe. Other unexplained incidents started soon after, with electrical appliances often unplugged when no one was there or simply malfunctioning and turning off on their own. In some cases these electronics were said to continue operating even after unplugged.
There were also unexplained knocks on the walls, floors, and doors at night, including one instance in which there was a knock on Joe’s bedroom door that was so powerful and insistent that the whole thing rattled in its frame. When he finally tore the door open it was found that there was no one there. When he closed the door his dog began to growl, and the doorknob started to turn back and forth before the door was suddenly smashed open with enough force to send wood splinters everywhere. There was no one there. Joe then saw a shadowy figure run through his apartment as if in fear before vanishing. He would later speculate that this was the ghost of one of the victims escaping from the malicious entity smashing down the door, thought to be the spirit of Baumeister himself.
Joe had another knocking incident one night as he was washing dishes and heard a bang at the front door of his apartment. This knock was followed by more, each one more insistent and powerful, until he bravely opened the door and once again found no one there. Indeed, there was no one to be seen outside at all, although he felt a heavy sense of being watched. He then caught something move out of the corner of his eye, but whirled about to see no one there. Again, his dog was reportedly acting agitated and snarling under its breath. This mysterious knocking phenomenon seemed to happen particularly to Joe, who experienced it time and time again at all hours of the day and night.
Other ever escalating frightening incidents began to occur as well. The people living at the estate often found themselves poked, pushed, and prodded by unseen hands, and Joe’s dog, normally quite docile, began to routinely snarl and bark at unseen enemies for no discernible reason. Pots and pans and furniture would move on their own, and there were frequent instances of disembodied voices from nowhere. One of the most dramatic of the phenomena they reported happened one day when Vicky looked out the window to see a man wandering around the property wearing a red T-shirt. She went out to see who this trespasser was and that was when she noticed that the man had no legs, but was rather hovering along over the ground, and he proceeded to vanish right before her eyes. The family searched the surrounding woods but could find no sign of whoever it had been.
The mysterious man in the red T-shirt would be seen again when Joe was out one day walking his dog and saw the very same spectral stranger. His dog apparently chased off after the mysterious stranger, after which the apparition vanished into thin air. It would later be discovered that there were undiscovered human bones buried in the dirt in the very same area that this ghostly apparition had been seen. As soon as these bone fragments were removed the man in the red T-shirt ceased to appear.
One of Joe’s friends, named Jeremy, heard about all of this weirdness and decided to come over to check it out, out of macabre curiosity. Jeremy came over and they took a swim in the estate’s pool, the very one at which Baumeister had killed most of his hapless victims. Jeremy was a self described hardcore skeptic, and wanted to show them all that there was nothing going on, but when he entered the water he would claim that he had been poked by unseen hands and that something had tried to pull him under and grab his throat. Witnesses said that he had genuinely seemed to be in dire trouble, and that he had panicked like they had never seen during the incident.
Of all of the people living on the Fox Hollow Farm, Joe seemed to be the most haunted by these strange occurrences. He began to constantly complain of being followed around by an unseen presence and his apartment was plagued by all manner of anomalous noises, bangs, knocks, moving objects, and fleeting glimpses of shadowy figures lurking in the dark. One night he claimed that he had heard from his kitchen the distinctive sound of metal scraping, after which he looked to see that a kitchen knife had been removed from its usual place to be put on the counter and that there were cut marks on the wall.
It was this frightening incident that would convince Joe to try and reach out to the spirit or spirits that were haunting him through using EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon, in which the voices of ghosts are captured on electrical equipment. He proceeded to turn off all of the electronics in his house and anything at all that could make noise and try to use his cell phone to record some sort of contact with the entity or entities. On his first try he asked who the entity in his kitchen was, and he almost immediately got the unmistakeable voice of a man replying “the married one.” Since all of Baumeister’s victims had been single gay men, Joe took this to mean that this was Baumeister himself.
Indeed, the alleged ghosts of Fox Hollow Farm seem to be very vocal and prone to EVP recordings, talkative even, with such bizarre instances having been often recorded since, and many of the paranormal investigation teams who have flooded into the estate over the years have picked up this strange phenomenon. The Chicago Paranormal Society picked an anomalous exchange in 2012, in which they seem to be able to make contact with not only Baumeister himself, but also the victims, who gave spooky warnings such as “Hurry up! He’s coming!” Whether it was real or not, the investigators themselves are obviously genuinely surprised and unsettled by the experience. The spooky exchange can be heard here.
Daywalkers Paranormal were also able to record a full exchange with the ghost or ghosts, with Part 1 here and Part 2 here. It is really hard to make out what the supposed responses are, but it is all undeniably very creepy. The same investigative team had an EVP session with an entity in the pool’s pump room. You can hear it here. Two other sessions were captured by researcher Regina Wolf by the pool area and in the kitchen, which can be heard here. Indeed, Fox Hollow Farm had been a haven for ghost hunters and paranormal investigators for years, including the TV shows Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Witness, and some of the most spectacular EVP activity seen anywhere can be found at this place. Why that should be remains unknown.
Fox Hollow Farm certainly has a dark history infused with violence and blood, but do its ghosts still linger here, tethered to the place of their horrific deaths or, in the case of Baumeister, their brutal deeds in life? Are they roaming this estate and if so, are they trying to reach out and communicate through EVP or is this just a bunch of spooky stories and over active imaginations? If it is real, why are these ghosts so particularly vocal? Haunted or not, Fox Hill Farm is an undeniably creepy place infused with an intriguing, malevolent past, and it surely seems that if ghosts should be anywhere, then it is here.