On Sunday, April 19, 1953, at 8:30-ish in the evening, Ronald H. Tammen, Jr., disappeared from his second-floor room in Fisher Hall on Miami University’s campus in Oxford, Ohio. He left everything behind — his wallet, his string bass, his car, his clothing, even his toothbrush. No one could figure out what happened to Tammen. Miami University officials were mystified, the Oxford PD outwitted, the FBI flummoxed. Since the spring of 2010, I’ve been conducting my own search for Tammen and what his disappearance might tell us about this enigmatic 19-year-old who landed himself squarely in the middle of one of the most bedeviling mysteries ever to hit the state of Ohio.
New to this site? Welcome! Currently, a bunch of us are awaiting word from an interagency panel to determine if my theory on what happened to Ronald Tammen is upheld. Once that happens—either way—everyone who follows me (through the blog, Facebook, or Twitter) will be notified. In the meantime, this is the perfect time to bring yourself up to speed on the story as well as to start rummaging through the blog posts, which I’m still writing, when there’s something important to tell you. I’ve also written a summary that you can read in 10 minutes to help get you started. Finally, if you have a lead, comment, or question, you can use the contact form in the top menu to communicate with me, or email me at rontammenproject[at]gmail[dot]com. Thank you!
Can’t get enough of the Ronald Tammen story? Here are some things to watch or listen to
What Happened to Ronald Tammen?
In early spring 2020, right before Covid-19 upended all of our lives, Chris Riva, of WXIX (Fox) television in Cincinnati, began filming a news segment on the Ronald Tammen case. Chris was especially interested in interviewing Marcia Tammen (Ron’s sister) for the segment, so he drove to Marcia’s apartment in Wooster, OH, and spent the morning interviewing Marcia and me. Sadly, it was the last time Marcia would be interviewed on camera. She passed away in August. The two-part segment aired in November 2020 and, although it didn’t win, it had been nominated for a 2021 Ohio Valley Regional Emmy Award.
Debunking the Phantom of Oxford: What Happened to Ron Tammen
Budding filmmaker Astrid Key recently interviewed me about my research into Ron Tammen’s disappearance. She asked some really great questions and in only 1/2 hour, she manages to get to the heart of the story. (Tiny correction: the date of Ron’s disappearance was April 19, 1953, not August.) Check out her mysterious YouTube channel.
The One That Got Away podcast — Season 2
Update: 9/19/2022: I have some bad news, everyone. At least for now, “The One That Got Away” is no longer available online. If it finds a new home, I’ll be sure to repost their second season, which was devoted to Ron Tammen.
I’d like to extend a very big thank you to Josh and Tyler for all they did to bring Ron’s story to a new audience. It was when I was preparing for one of their podcasts that I realized that Gilson Wright, a Miami journalism professor and stringer for area newspapers, had never (ever) mentioned that Ron’s open textbook was his psychology book, even though Hamilton Journal-News reporter Joe Cella had revealed that information in April 1954. If it weren’t for Josh and Tyler, I wouldn’t have seen with my own eyes how the university had covered up important details about Ron Tammen’s disappearance. Thank you, Josh and Tyler!
St. Clair Switzer’s July 1951 Job Application to the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in Baltimore, MD
To magnify, click here
Searching the MKULTRA Collection
The September 5, 1952 Project Artichoke report may not have been typed on Switzer’s typewriter, but there’s still a chance that he may have written it. That document was part of the CIA’s MKULTRA collection that I’d obtained on CD-ROM in 2014, after I’d found the I&I memo online on the CIA website. (Bad news, everyone: the CIA has undergone a website redesign, and our I&I memo doesn’t seem to be posted anymore. I’ve tried all sorts of search combinations using words that were in the memo, and I’m getting zippo. Here’s the link to the CIA’s reading room. Let me know if you can find it, OK?)
Although the I&I memo was electronically searchable, the documents I received on CD-ROM were not. I took a long time going through them, trying to find something that might be relevant to Project Artichoke, St. Clair Switzer, and perhaps even to Ron Tammen. Here’s a sampling of the documents I considered most relevant, listed by date, document number, CIA index title, and my brief summary of what the document is about:
|52-1-14||149617||Bluebird-Artichoke, Proposed Research, with Covering Memo||What it is: Artichoke team proposal: hypnosis, narco-hypnosis, amnesia, etc.|
|52-1-20||144688||Proposed Memorandum for Secretary of Defense||What it is: Draft memo to Sec of Defense asking for help from the Research and Development Board (RDB).|
|52-1-25||144686||Project Artichoke (Deleted) Evaluation of ISSO Role||What it is: Memo providing overview of Artichoke, including the problems it’s facing.|
|52-2-12||148470||Conversation between (Deleted) and the Writer on 12 February 1952||What it is: Conversation between Morse Allen and R.J. Williams about how displeased R.J. is with Artichoke’s progress and how he wants scientific expertise.|
|52-2-25||190597||(Deleted) Interview with||What it is: Q&A with a professional hypnotist about what can be done through hypnosis.|
|52-3-3||147392||Attached (Re Bluebird) with Attachment||What it is: Birds-eye view of Bluebird and how more scientists are needed.|
|52-3-6||146326||(Deleted) Re Investigative File||What it is: They’re looking into hiring someone to serve as a consultant.|
|52-3-7||144697||Technical Assistance for Project Artichoke||What it is: They are seeking help from the Director of Central Intelligence to request assistance from the Medical Sciences committee of the RDB.|
|52-3-8||147383||Artichoke||What it is: Security staff feel that OSI’s interest in science is important, but let’s keep on doing what we’re doing too.|
|52-3-11||190593||(Deleted) Interview with||What it is: Interview with a hypnosis expert who wishes to help but is morally opposed to applying these techniques.|
|52-3-12||147386||I&S Activities Re Project Artichoke||What it is: The need to bring in 2 top hypnosis experts.|
|52-3-13||148314||(Deleted) Technical Assistance||What it is: Meeting with RDB representative regarding DCI’s request for assistance.|
|52-3-25||190590||I&I||What it is: This is the memo in which they discuss approaching two scientists with expertise in hypnosis. Although the names are redacted, I believe they are St. Clair Switzer and Griffith Wynne Williams. This document is currently under consideration by ISCAP for declassification.|
|52-4-26||144700||Project Artichoke||What it is: Extensive report on Project Artichoke by R.J. Williams where he describes new task of the RDB.|
|52-5-15||144708||Special Interrogations Referencing AD/SI Memorandum to DD/P on Subject, Dated 13 March 1951||What it is: Repurposed memo to Allen Dulles from OSI reporting on Project Artichoke and the new task of the RDB; Note: I currently don’t have a copy of the March 13, 1951, memo that’s referenced, but I am looking for it.|
|52-6-4||144723||Project (Deleted)||What it is: Memo on forming the RDB’s study group.|
|52-7-16||144665||(Deleted) Study Group||What it is: These are the names of the study group members, all redacted. I’m currently attempting to get the CIA to lift the redactions on these names.|
|52-7-26||144663||(Deleted) Study Group||What it is: Discusses proposed group members and the downgrading of a Top Secret document establishing the study group.|
|52-9-5||146201||(Deleted) Report with Attachment Same Title Dated 7 May 1953 with Cover Page, Preface, and Table of Contents of Report Titled “Some Areas of Psychiatric Interest” by Psychological Strategy Board Dated 5 September 1952||What it is: This report was produced by (I believe) a member of the RDB executive committee, and possibly St. Clair Switzer. A forensic document examiner is currently assessing whether the typewriting on this document matches a document Switzer had typed in 1951.|
|52-10-1||144741||Matter Possibly Relating to Project Artichoke with Enclosure Titled “A Suggested Procedure for Collection of Information,” Dated 28 March 1952||What it is: an outside expert offers ostensibly unsolicited suggestions on using hypnosis against the enemy. The suggestions were written 3 days after the I&I memo, which makes me wonder if it may have been written by one of our two experts. However, it didn’t make its way to the proper office until October 1952.|
|52-12-5||144666||Memorandum on (Deleted) (Artichoke)||What it is: This is a summary of the ad hoc committee meeting dates and discussions.|
|53-1-14||145888||Interrogation Techniques||What it is: This memo names two individuals affiliated with the U.S. Air Force with hypnosis expertise for an interrogation research center. Although the names are redacted, I believe the two are Louis Jolyon West and St. Clair Switzer. This document is currently under consideration by ISCAP for declassification.|
|53-1-15||145889||Report of Ad Hoc Medical Study Group (Deleted) Without Attachment||What it is: This is the cover letter of the ad hoc group’s report. Note that the group’s official title is revealed here as the Ad Hoc Medical Study Group.|
|53-1-15||145890||Report of Ad Hoc Medical Study Group (Deleted)||What it is: This is the ad hoc group’s report.|
|53-2-16||144661||Report on Artichoke by (Deleted), Summary of, (Deleted) Dated 2 February 1953||What it is: This is the opinion of the chief of the Technical Branch on the ad hoc committee’s report.|
|53-2-16||144662||Report on Artichoke by (Deleted), Summary of, (Deleted) Dated 2 February 1953||What it is: Another memo from the chief of the Technical Branch on the ad hoc committee’s report.|
I’m now wondering: Is there anything else in the trove of CIA MKULTRA documents that could be related to St. Clair Switzer—documents that I could have missed the first or second time through?
The good news is that the same MKULTRA documents that I received on CD-ROM have been converted to electronically searchable PDFs at the website known as The Black Vault. In addition, more documents have been obtained from the CIA and are listed separately on The Black Vault’s MKULTRA page.
If you’d like to look through these documents for something that might pertain to our case, here are some search tips I’d suggest:
- Start with the index, and look for dates relatively close to March 25, 1952, the date of the I&I memo. I’d say anything between January 1952 (when the memo seeking assistance from the Research and Development Board was written) and December 1953 should be sufficient for starters.
- Look at the title of the document to see if it has anything to do with our areas of interest. Be aware, however, that the titles are often overly broad and might be (purposely) misleading. Anything having to do with Artichoke is fair game. Or special interrogations. Some other possible terms are:
ad hoc group
Medical Study Group
Air Force (USAF)
Research and Development Board (RDB)
Psychological Strategy Board (PSB)
Feel free to come up with others as well. Of course, combinations of the above are even better.
- Jot down the document number from the index and then find it in one of the four folders of the searchable and downloadable database.
- If you think it might be pertinent, post a link to the document in the comments section of the discussion page called “Putting Things Together (at the bottom of the “Backgrounder” list on the homepage). Or, if you prefer, feel free to send me a message through the contact form.
If you find something that appears to be relevant, we can glean as much as possible from whatever isn’t blacked out but we can also figure out the next step, which may be filing a FOIA request or a Mandatory Declassification Review request. Or there might be something else we can try.
To access other original documents and resources pertaining to the Tammen story, scroll to the bottom of this page.