Thursday, March 11, 2021

HGB Ep. 376 - Fox Hollow Farm

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Moment in Oddity - Jack the Baboon as Railroad Assistant (Suggested by Scott Booker)

James Edwin Wide was a railway signalman in South Africa back in the 1880s. James had lost both of his legs in a work accident, so he had a real tough time of it. He caught an incredible break when he went to the market and saw a chacma baboon driving an oxcart. James was so impressed he bought the baboon, named him Jack and trained the animal to push him to and from work in a small trolley. Soon he was training Jack to sweep floors and do other household duties. This is all really impressive, but Jack was able to do something even more amazing. When trains would approach the train station, they would toot their whistles to indicate which track they needed changed. James would pull on the levers to change the tracks. Jack watched James do this and Jack figured out the pattern. Jack became so proficient that James didn't even have to supervise him anymore. One day, a train passenger saw that it was a baboon at the station controls and they freaked out and complained to the authorities. The railway managers came to the train station thinking they would be firing James until they saw the baboon working. They decided to test his abilities instead. Railway superintendent George B. Howe said, "Jack knows the signal whistle as well as I do, also every one of the levers. It was very touching to see his fondness for his master. As I drew near they were both sitting on the trolley. The baboon’s arms round his master’s neck, stroking James' face.” The railway insisted that Jack the baboon be paid, so he was given an employment number and received 20 cents a day and a half bottle of beer every week. Jack made no mistakes in the nine years he worked at the train station. His record ended when he developed tuberculosis and passed away. A baboon working the rails with a perfect record, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Siege of Rome

In the month of March, on the 2nd, in 537, the First Siege of Rome started. Also in March, on the 12th, in 538, that siege ended. This was a part of the Gothic War. Roman commander Belisarius was one of the most most well-known and successful generals in Rome and he led Roman forces against the siege of the Ostrogothic army under King Vitiges. The Goths had a force of nearly 30,000 men as compared to the initial Roman force of 5,000 that were later reinforced by another 5,600. King Vitiges had recently been elected as the new king and he knew that his enraged people wanted action. They were tired of the attacks by the Romans and now they took action. As they entered Rome via a bridge, the Roman forces there abandoned their positions, unbeknownst to Belisarius. He took his forces to the bridge and was surprised to see it occupied by the Goths and he was hit hard. The Goths continued to have wins, but as disease and famine hit not only the beseiged Romans, but the Goths, they began to lose. Soon the Goths were surrounded by Roman detachments. The seige had now been going for 374 days and the Goths decided to abandon Rome and burned their camps. Belisarius pursued them and waited until half the Gothic army had crossed the Milvian Bridge before attacking the remainder and many Goths were drowned in the river or killed. The siege was finally over.

Fox Hollow Farm

We hear true crime stories like this all the time. A mild-mannered neighbor seems to be living a mundane life with his wife and kids, until he turns out to be a serial killer. That described Herb Baumeister perfectly. He was an entrepreneur who founded the successful Sav-A-Lot thrift stores, but beneath that successful veneer, he was also something quite sinister. He was suspected in the murders of at least sixteen men and more than likely, many more. His nickname became the I-70 Strangler. His home was Fox Hollow Farm and this would become his burial ground for victims. The farm has been rumored to be haunted by the killer and his victims. Join us as we explore the crimes of Herb Baumeister and the hauntings left in their wake at Fox Hollow Farm!

Puberty can be a real struggle. We suspect that nearly all of our listeners would not care to repeat that time in their lives. Hormones are raging as a young person is making the adjustment from child to young adult. For Herbert Richard Baumeister, puberty caused some kind of shift in his brain from which he would never recover. Baumeister was born in 1947 to Herbert and Elizabeth Baumeister and he grew up in Westfield, Indiana. By all accounts, his early childhood seemed to be good and he was joined by two brothers and a sister. As he entered his teens, he started to become obsessed with some really weird thoughts as his personality shifted. His behavior became anti-social and he started telling obscene jokes and pulling weird pranks. Herb would wonder what it would be like to taste urine and he became fascinated by dead animals. Walking to school one morning, he found a dead crow in the road and he picked it up and put it in his pocket. When he got to his classroom, he slipped the crow onto the teacher's desk when she wasn't looking. Another teacher got an even better present on their desk. Herb threw a fit once and urinated on that teacher's desk during class. 

One can imagine that his parents were frustrated by Herb's downward spiral of weird behavior and they took him to a doctor for psychological testing. The tests revealed that their was possibly a multi-personality issue and schizophrenic tendencies. Unfortunately, he was left untreated and he continued his descent into madness. His fascination with dead animals developed into squeezing the animals, so he could feel their bones crushing from the power of his hands. The sensation aroused him. Despite being schizophrenic, Baumeister managed to function at a high level. He graduated from high school and got into Indiana University. It would be here that he would meet Juliana Saitor, who went by Julie, and the two would start dating. Herb had not dated anyone before, but the couple got serious quickly. They shared conservative opinions and got along fairly well. Baumeister decided he was done with college after only a year and he dropped out and began working for the Indianapolis Star as a copy boy. In 1971, Herb and Julie married. What Julie didn't know, and perhaps Herb wasn't quite aware either, was that he had homosexual tendencies. 

Herb had other tendencies too in regards to his mental health and Julie would soon find out about that. They had been married for six months when Herb's father checked him into a psychiatric hospital and he spent two months there. Herb was suffering from deep depression and he would fly into unprovoked rages. He started working a variety of jobs and did well, but his co-workers thought he was very bizarre. He lost a job working as a Program Director for the State Bureau of Motor Vehicles after he urinated on a letter addressed for the governor. After eight years of marriage, Julie and Herb decided to start a family. Their first daughter, Marie, was born in 1979, followed by their son Erich who was born in 1981 and then their final child, another daughter named Emily was born in 1984. The following year, 1985, the body of a seventeen-year-old man named Eric Roetiger was found in Indiana. It is believed that this is one of Herb's first victims, so at some point previously he had started picking up men. Herb started having problems with the law. He got arrested for a hit and run while he was intoxicated. Later, he was arrested for conspiracy to commit theft and he managed to beat the charge.

Baumeister set his sights on starting his own business in 1988.  He had worked at a thrift store for a time and he and Julie discussed opening one of their own. His father had recently died and Herb went to his mother to ask for a $350,000 loan to open a SAV-A-LOT Thrift store. The store was wildly successful and Herb opened a second one in 1990. The body of twenty-six year old Steven Elliot was found shortly before this and this would be another possible victim of Herb. Despite clearly having some major issues, Herb was a good father. He tried hard to make sure his kids grew up in a "Leave it to Beaver" type home. That was the kind of childhood that he had, so the family spent a lot of time together, almost cloistered. The Baumeisters had few friends and we venture to think that was because Herb was odd in a bad way. The family had been successful with their three SAV-A-LOT stores, but their fortunes began to turn. Balancing the three stores and raising three kids was taking its toll. Herb was spending long hours away from work and no one knew what he was doing, but he would smell like alcohol when he returned. Herb burned out and asked Julie for a divorce in 1991.

The couple reconciled and even though their finances were not doing as well, they decided to buy their dream home. This would be Fox Hollow Farm in Westfield, Indiana, which was an 11,000 square foot mansion built in the Tudor style with an indoor pool that sat on 18 acres and had originally been built by a doctor and his wife. There were nine bathrooms, four bedrooms, a library, two massive stone fireplaces and an apartment. There was also a 4,000 square foot garage and two horse stables. The couple was happy that their kids would have plenty of room to play and not be in danger of getting hit by a car. The irony was that they lived every day of their lives with a very dangerous man. Their father had started cruising the local gay bars and was calling himself Brian Smart. Gay men were disappearing from those bars. 

Ten would disappear in a little over two years. This started in May of 1993 with the disappearance of twenty-two year old Michael Riley. That same month, twenty year old Johnny L. Bayer was reported missing. Thirty-one year old Jeffery Jones was reported missing in July. Richard Hamilton, who was twenty, went missing that month as well. In August, twenty-seven year old Alan Livingstone disappeared. Stephen Hale, twenty-six, was reported missing in April 1994. In June, twenty-eight year old Alan Broussard walked out of a gay bar and was never seen again. In July, thirty-four year old Roger Alan Goodlet disappeared. Virgil Vandagriff was a private investigator who had worked for the Marion County Sheriff's Department. The first case to come to Vandagriff was Alan Broussard's. Alan's mother approached Vandagriff in early June of 1994. She described her son as a heavy drinker and gay. He was last seen leaving a gay bar called Brothers. The investigator wasn't alarmed at first, but did his due diligence, putting posters up around the area. As more missing gay men were reported, all of whom were described having similar features, Vandagriff became more concerned. Mary Wilson was an investigator with the Indianapolis Police Department and she was also working on cases involving missing gay men in Indianapolis. The two investigators had begun to suspect that all these cases were connected to each other. We're not sure how they learned of each other, but they began communicating and were soon working together on the case. 

In 1993, a gay man came to them with a horrific tale. He claimed that he had met a man named Brian Smart at a bar and that he had joined Smart at his mansion. Smart had led him into the area of the house that had an indoor pool. It was oddly decorated with mannequins around the pool. When the man asked why Smart had the mannequins, he answered that he got lonely, so they kept him company. The man continued his tale, sharing that he swam naked in the pool and then Brian told him he had a neat trick to show him. He asked the guy to strangle him with a hose while he serviced himself. Then Smart put his hands on this victim's neck and began to choke him until he feigned passing out. Brian shook him until he opened his eyes. Smart said he was tired and he fell asleep, so the man scouted around the house trying to figure out who Brian really was and because he suspected that he had killed a friend of his that went missing. Perhaps it was an accident while practicing autoerotic asphyxia. Unfortunately, this man only found women's clothing and children's toys and no name. Smart had told him that he was staying in an empty house working on landscaping for a new owner who would be moving in soon. Clearly, he had lied. The man tried to fish the wallet out of Smart's jeans, but Smart woke up. The man asked him to take him back to the bar and Smart did telling him that he was a lot of fun and he would see him later in the week. The man was unable to give the address for the mansion he had been taken to and he also had no other information. The detectives could do little more than take down his report and they sent the man on his way, asking that he contact them if he saw Smart again. 

It would take three years, but in 1995 the witness phoned the detectives and he told them that he had seen Smart and that he managed to record his license plate number. This was the break that they needed. They traced the license plate to Herb Baumeister and paid a visit to his house at Fox Hollow Farm. Baumeister was there and they informed him that he was a suspect in the disappearance of several men and they asked to search the house. Obviously, Baumeister was not willing to allow them to do that and there was not enough evidence to get a search warrant. The detectives decided to try working on Julie and they approached her outside of one of the SAV-A-LOT stores. Despite being very unhappy in her marriage, Julie was also unwilling to allow the detectives to search the house and even got angry that the detectives suggested her husband was a suspect in the disappearance of gay men. She went home and asked Herb about it and he dismissed the whole thing as rubbish and she left it alone. But she had to be suspicious because in twenty-five years of marriage, Herb and Julie had only had sex six times.

The other thing that should have had Julie suspicious was something that happened in the fall of 1994. A year before the police came knocking, Erich, who was thirteen at the time, had been playing in the woods when he stumbled across a human skull. He brought it back to the house and showed it to his mother who was horrified. She asked Erich to lead her to where he found the skull and he did just that. Julie was even more stunned when she sifted through the leaves and found a pile of bones. When Herb came home from work, she showed him the skull and told him about the other bones. Perhaps she hoped that he would explain them away as an old burial on the land that they didn't know about, but instead he told her a farcical story. His father had been an anesthesiologist and so Herb said that it was a medical school skeleton that his father had owned and Herb wasn't sure what to do with it, so he buried it in their backyard. Julie apparently bought the story because she didn't press him further.

Five months later, the police tried again to get Julie to give them permission to search the property and again she said, "No." But she clearly had to be thinking about what they had told her. Her husband was a suspect in murders and bones had been found on the property by their son. Her marriage was rapidly deteriorating and she had already suspected that he was stepping out on her. He had plenty of time for such things because for weeks and even months every summer, she would take the kids to a property that Herb's mother owned on a lake. Herb would never join them claiming that he was too busy with the stores. And now, his behavior was becoming even more erratic than it had been before and Julie found some of it to be terrifying. Julie decided she couldn't take it anymore and she filed for divorce. The detectives working the case had gotten their first break when their witness got the license plate of Herb's car. Now they were going to get their next break. In June of 1996, Julie invited the police to search the house and property and what they found was horrific. 

The 18-acre estate had become a burial ground. Several officers started in an area that Julie led them to and they began kicking up clots of dirt. After only a couple of kicks, a charred foot long bone popped up out of the ground. Then the officers noticed that what they had at first thought were rocks and pebbles strewn about, were actually bones. They found bits of bone and teeth everywhere. Clearly, the Baumeister kids had to have played all over the bones. They called in Forensic Anthropologist Stephen Nawrocki from the University of Indiana and he told them that the bones were indeed human, that they were recent and that they had been burned. The investigators dropped markers wherever they found bone and soon it looked like a mass disaster scene. When police searched the house, they found a hidden camera in the pool area. Dozens of volunteers helped collect bones over a two week period. The bones of eleven men were found, but only eight would eventually be identified.  

It was believed that Baumeister trolled the Interstate in Indiana and picked up young gay men there from bars he frequented and brought them back to his house. He also is believed to have killed missing gay men in Ohio. Julie told the police that Herb would take business trips into Ohio, but she was never sure exactly of what these trips were about. Nine bodies were found in rural areas along Interstate 70 on the corridor between Indianapolis and Columbus. Julie estimated that he had made at least a hundred business trips to Ohio. Authorities believed that Herb not only killed these nine other men, but that he could have killed up to fifty more. That makes Baumeister a very proficient serial killer.

While this search was being conducted, Baumeister was with his son Erich at his mother's lake home. Julie got a custody order and police brought Erich back home. No one knows if Herb suspected that the police were onto him or if he figured this was just Julie being mean because of the divorce, but he disappeared from Lake Wawasee. Five days later, he phoned his brother Brad and told him that he was on a business trip and desperately needed some money. Brad was already aware of what had been found at his brother's house, so he sent the cash and then called the police. Herb had made his way to Fennville and then Port Huron where he called his brother again, looking for more money. Brad told Herb that the cops wanted to talk to him. Herb hung up and drove into Canada. 

That was June 30th and the police estimated that he spent several days driving along Lake Huron towards Grand Bend, Ontario. He slept in his car at night and one evening a Canadian trooper knocked on the car window and asked why he was sleeping in his car. Baumeister claimed to be a tourist just resting his eyes. She surveyed the car and saw luggage and videotapes in the back seat. Perhaps these were tapes featuring the murders. We'll never know because it is believed he threw the tapes in the lake before he killed himself. On the evening of July 3rd, Baumeister drove into Pinery Park, ate a peanut butter sandwich, piled up some sand into a human sized mound, put some dead birds around it, put a .357 Magnum revolver to his forehead and pulled the trigger. He left behind a suicide note that said he was going to go to sleep now because he had failed at business and his marriage was irreparable. He made no mention of any murders.

Julie and the children moved away from the house. Vicki and Robert Graves bought the mansion and land in 2006 for $987,000, even though the asking price had been $2.3 million and the property was more than likely worth at least $5 million. Eight acres were purchased by Noah Herron who opened the Urban Vines Winery & Brewery in 2017. Herron put three acres up for sale in 2019 and we couldn't find anything on whether they sold or not. Also unknown is if Herron built a home on the acreage, which had been his plan. Vicki and Robert Graves still live in the house and Robert wrote a book with Richard Estep in 2019 called "The Horrors of Fox Hollow Farm, Unraveling the History & Hauntings of a Serial Killer's Home" about the property and the murderer. The book details the many haunting experiences the Graves have had while living at Fox Hollow Farm. 

The Graves realized shortly after moving in that there was something strange going on at the property.  They heard strange knocking inside the house and they heard disembodied voices and footsteps. They saw full bodied apparitions. On one occasion, Mrs. Graves was vacuuming gravel from around the pool and her cord kept coming unplugged for no reason. After the third time, she finally gave up on vacuuming. One of the full bodied apparitions seen by Mrs. Graves was that of a young man in their yard wearing a red t-shirt. That wasn't weird, but the fact he had no legs was. As he walked away, he disappeared. That is the most well known story about the property and this spirit wearing the red shirt has been seen by several other people. Rob claims that Herb haunts his former home, although his presence has become infrequent. There are investigators who think that a malevolent energy is at the house and that it impersonates Herb, but that Herb's spirit is not at the house. Estep caught a stick figure on his SLS Camera in the apartment.

The apartment on the property had its own entrance and a kitchen and Mr. Graves offered it to a co-worker named Joe LeBlanc when he was in need of a place to live. Joe reported having strange experiences from his first night there. His dog would react to things Joe couldn't see and one night there was an insistent knocking at the door and when he opened it, there was no one there. But the door knocking was up and then slammed down. He saw the door knob moving as well. Joe also saw the stranger in the red t-shirt on the property. He decided to try recording some EVPs and asked questions to the air to see if he could get a response. He asked who was in the kitchen and he caught a response. An EVP could be heard repeating the phrase, "the married one," over and over again. All of Baumeister's victims had been single, so it would seem that perhaps Baumeister has returned to his home and the scene of many of his crimes. Joe also claimed to be strangled by something he couldn't see when he was in the pool one day. He also claimed to see a spirit in the apartment that was a young man that was running as though for his life. Knife marks on the wall have led him to believe someone was killed in his apartment.

A documentary titled "The Haunting of Fox Hollow Farm" came out in 2015. During their investigation, several psychics walked the house and they used various pieces of equipment to collect evidence. EVP caught saying, "Go in my closet." Another EVP said, "You're so f**ked up. Turn it off." And another couple, "You know who I am" and "You know why I'm here." The most chilling EVP said, "You dare to come to my house." A couple of investigators saw a figure lurking in the woods when it was getting dark on the property. Could this be the elemental spirit that is said to haunt the woods there? Richard Estep claims that he heard an animalistic, guttural growl on the property, which could either be the malevolent spirit or the elemental spirit or perhaps they are the same. The documentary not only covers Fox Hollow Farm, but the crew went out to the lake where Baumeister killed himself. One psychic felt that he had thrown the videotapes in the water, while another believed they were burned.

Ghost Adventures investigated the property during Season 11. Vicki Graves told Zak about the spirit in the red shirt and she said that she felt like he was trying to show her something, but she wasn't sure what. Robert told the crew that he had seen a shadow figure move from the pump room to the pool room while he was cleaning the pool one day. They caught a male voice whispering "Help" on an EVP. The Spirit Box said, "I'm dead," "I don't know" when asked who killed him and "Herb did it!"

Many people claim that the activity is not as bad as it used to be. Herb Baumeister was a prolific serial killer who got away with his crimes for many years and was never brought to justice. Let's hope that justice has come to him in the afterlife. Is he still here and haunting Fox Hollow Farm? Are his victims haunting the property? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Baumeister Timeline:,%20Herb%20-%20fall,%202005.pdf

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