I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
I have been waiting foreverrrrrr for this to pop up on NetGalley and you can bet I snatched it up the moment I saw it - thanks again for the auto-approval, Llewellyn. I have read several of Estep's non-fiction works now and this is probably tied for first with my most favorite, which was his investigation of a former medieval prison in Spirits of the Cage. That book seriously creeped me the fuck out.
As did this one.
So Fox Hollow Farm was this spacious property in Indiana owned by the Baumeister family. It's beautiful and you probably would have no problem living there, until you learn that by the way, Herb Baumeister was probably a serial killer and the whole property is haunted by him, some of his victims, and/or an elemental that enjoys sowing and feeding off the negative energy.
I have had my fair share of paranormal experiences (the Villisca Ax Murder House in Villisca, Iowa; the Palmer House Hotel in Sauk Centre, MN; the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO; and my own apartment for five years in Lincoln, NE). None of my experiences have been scary, and I have been lucky to see, hear, and take photos of evidence. (I have plenty of stories if you ever want to hear a few!) As such, it takes a fair bit for me to get creeped out, yet this book managed to do so. I was reading it while sitting on the couch, all the lights on in my apartment - DURING THE DAY. Some of it freaked me out that much. I think that mostly came from the idea of the elemental. I don't mess with that kind of stuff and I would never intentionally go somewhere that might be home to dangerous or malevolent entities. I have a young child and would never want to inadvertently bring something home that would put us in danger.
I say that Baumeister was 'probably' a serial killer because he committed suicide in Canada and was never tried for any of his alleged crimes. We will never know for sure, but in all actuality, he probably murdered at least a dozen young men in the 80s and 90s. When it became clear that the police were onto him, Baumeister fled to Canada and took his life, leaving nothing but grief and trauma behind.
The book is really two-in-one. We get a brief history of Baumeister, his life and alleged crimes, and then we also get Estep and his teams' investigations and evidence. There is admittedly very little in the way of info on Baumeister due to his death. There is one man who claims to have survived Baumeister's attempt on his life and in doing so went on to become his sometimes-lover for a few years, but because Baumeister was never brought to trial, we don't know much about his alleged crimes, or even how many victims there may be. It is possible that not only did he lure young men back to his home from bars, but that he may have been responsible for a string of bodies left along a highway that just happens to be a route he would have taken for business. I can't imagine that his former wife would be too eager to provide any information about him or their life together with their children. As such, the book relies heavily on the paranormal aspect, so if you are looking for a heavy dose of true crime, you will be disappointed.
I, on the other hand, was straight-up here for the paranormal and I was not disappointed one bit. The problem with books like this, is that hard physical evidence is hard to come back, and you can't really do much except show photographic evidence. Though, I have read a few books on my Kindle that link within the text to EVPs online, which is cool. However, personal experiences are hugely important, and I have had many myself, so it is easy for me to believe in some of those reports, at least from sources I trust. Estep falls into that category.
As I have come to expect from the author and the teams he puts together, the research is sound, the investigations are thorough, and there are very little dramatics. (Ghost Adventures, this is not. Thank God.) Instead, we get reasonable explanations for occurrences, multiple investigators trying out a series of locations on the property, all trying to corroborate the experiences of others, or debunk things that have a far less interesting explanation than 'ghost'.
I still have a hard time believing in the use of dowsing rods. I feel like there is far too big a margin of error, whether intentional or not on the part of the user. Luckily there are many pieces of equipment that Estep and his teams use, all of which will be familiar to those who are interested in this field of study. He also takes time to briefly explain the equipment for those who do not have such background.
My only issue with the book comes because of the intentional typos. I realize this is an ARC, but these typos are very specific, in that all 'fi' and 'ff' letter combos are missing, so the word office would look like 'oice' and so on. I have only noticed this occurring in the last few months, and have so far only found it in books I get from Llewellyn. I am not sure what the purpose is, but it does get kind of annoying. This issue does not impact my rating, but is something to watch for, should you request a copy from the publisher as well.
All in all, this is great read and very spectacularly sinister. Highly recommended.