My theory on Ron Tammen’s exact location the moment he disappeared, and other thoughts*

(Supplement to season 2, episode 3 of The One That Got Away)

*This post was formerly titled “More thoughts on two ignored clues,” but that was really boring, so I changed it. The URL remains the same, however.

I’m not gonna lie—podcasting has been fun. Not only is it helping me cope with my covid-fueled despair in a meaningful and productive way, but it inspires me to revisit some of the old blog posts and think new thoughts in light of findings that came out a little later in the process. (Please note: I won’t be producing a supplemental blog post for every podcast episode; I’ll only create a new post if we cover territory there that I haven’t discussed here.) 

What I’m about to share is discussed in season 2, episode 3 of the podcast The One That Got Away, which I encourage you to listen to when you have a few idle minutes on your hands. Josh and Tyler are delightful human beings and they’re becoming quite the avid Tammen fans as well. But if you prefer to get your Tammen news by way of written words on a screen, no problem. I love that you like to read. Here are my latest ruminations regarding two questions that you may have already wondered about but were too polite to ask. I’m also going to share some brand new info that was released by Josh and Tyler during episode 3.

Question 1: Why did investigators choose to dismiss Paul’s and Chip’s story so quickly?

Let’s talk about those two extra hours we discovered in Ron’s timeline. Remember when Paul (not his real name) swore up and down that he and a guy named Chip Anderson (real name, but deceased) walked home with Ron after song practice on the night of April 19, and that they didn’t arrive until around 10:30 p.m.? And remember how university reps and the police interviewed them but completely ignored their story, instead telling everyone that Ron disappeared from his room at around 8:30 p.m.?

In a subsequent post, I discussed my theory of why investigators embraced Mrs. Spivey’s story so wholeheartedly. I even demonstrated—using my sweet ride, a 2011 Mazda 3, and the calculator on my phone—how Ron could have feasibly (though improbably) ended up in Seven Mile on foot under the 8:30 scenario, but most definitely not the 10:30 p.m. scenario. If he left at 10:30, and if it was Ron Tammen at Mrs. Spivey’s door, someone would have had to drive him there, which would complicate matters in ways investigators probably didn’t wish to imagine.

But Mrs. Spivey didn’t come forward until June. Why then did investigators choose to dismiss Paul’s and Chip’s story right off the bat?

I think the answer has to do with their favorite theory as to how Tammen disappeared. Very early in the investigation, by Friday, April 24, the university had declared in several Miami Valley and Cleveland papers that Ronald Tammen probably had amnesia. “Officials believe that he might have suffered an attack of amnesia,” an article in the Hamilton Journal News read. The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote: “University officials said Tammen might be suffering from amnesia as he took no clothing or personal articles with him.” (Neither article contained a byline, but my guess is that they were penned by Gilson Wright, since he wrote for both papers.) At least the Cleveland Plain Dealer showed some healthy journalistic skepticism about the university’s conclusion. It read “The dean [Carl Knox] believed the youth might have suffered an attack of amnesia, but had nothing to back that theory.”

So, amnesia. Now let’s consider how investigators would have tried to explain their amnesia theory under both estimated times of departure. Under the 8:30 p.m. scenario, Ron would have developed his amnesia at some point while he was in his dorm room, after he’d changed his sheets. Maybe it had hit him while he was studying at his desk. No one could possibly know the reason, because no one was there. He was alone, so anything was possible. In their view, he just, you know, cracked.

Under the 10:30 p.m. scenario, Ron had walked back to the dorms with Paul and Chip. He dropped them both off at Symmes Hall, and then headed toward Fisher Hall. But Ron never made it back to his room in Fisher. How do we know that? We know it because that’s roughly when his roommate, Chuck Findlay, had returned from his weekend in Dayton. Chuck never saw Ron.

Therefore, and this is crucial: Ron would have been struck by amnesia at some point between Symmes Hall and Fisher Hall.

Below is a map that shows you how close the two buildings were to one another, circled in red. Symmes is building #37, and Fisher is building #36. In my driving video on Ron’s possible trip to Seven Mile, that’s Symmes Hall on the left, immediately after I exited the circular driveway that’s now in front of Marcum Hotel and Conference Center. That driveway used to be in front of Fisher. You guys…Symmes and Fisher are super close.

Which scenario do you think investigators gravitated toward? While both are a little tough to swallow, wouldn’t it be easier to explain the one in which Ron went wandering off when no one was watching as opposed to walking with two people and then forgetting who he was immediately afterward? Exactly. Scenario A was the one they chose: 8:30ish. This brings me to the second question.

1952-53 map of Miami marked up
1952-53 map of Miami University; circled in red is Fisher Hall (Bldg #36) and Symmes Hall (Bldg #37); Click on map for closer view.
Symmes Hall from video
Symmes Hall, as taken in my car trip from Marcum Conference Center to Mrs. Spivey’s home. Note that this screen shot is 41 seconds into the video. You can watch as I drive on the circular driveway, then pass Symmes in the video on YouTube.

Question 2: Why did no one follow up on the clue regarding the woman in the car?

In July 2017, I learned about an astonishing lead. I learned that Ron had reportedly been spotted sitting in a car with a woman from Hamilton late on April 19 and, after about 45 minutes or so, the two had driven away. I learned this after I’d met with a former member of the Oxford police force—someone who had actually worked for police chief Oscar Decker in 1953, when Tammen disappeared. In my blog post, I refer to this man as Ralph Smith, but that was just a pseudonym. I was keeping his identity secret.

Until now.

In preparing for the podcast, I checked online to see if my source was still alive, and unfortunately, I found his very brief obituary. My source’s true name was Logan Corbin, and he passed away at the age of 97 on December 16, 2017, five months after our meeting. I’m posting his photo below as well as a link to an audio clip of him telling me about the purported woman in the car.

Logan Corbin
Logan Corbin, formerly with the Oxford Police Department, 1952-1959; photo taken in July 2017

Logan was African American. In those days, it was virtually unheard of for a rural, small-town, predominantly white community such as Oxford to hire a Black cop, and, for that reason, I give the city credit for taking a step toward progress in the early-1950s. Nevertheless, racism was rampant there, and Logan endured daily doses of slurs from his fellow officers, sometimes over the police radio. Eventually, he decided to leave that position for another job, though he remained with the Oxford PD for seven years, from 1952 to 1959.

When you listen to Logan tell the story, one of the points he keeps repeating is that the lead concerning the woman in the car was never checked out. To that I say, WTfreakinF, Oscar Decker?! Logan wasn’t sure how the police had found out about it—”word just got out,” he’d told me. Granted, it would have taken some detective work to follow the lead. They didn’t know the woman’s name, the make or model of her car, its color, the exact time she drove away, any of that. But it would have been way easier to check out those details then, when all the major players were still alive and well, and walking around that small section of campus, as opposed to six decades later. The cops could have publicized the possible sighting far and wide, asking anyone with information to come forward. For some reason, they chose not to.

If, as I believe, Ron Tammen disappeared from somewhere between Symmes Hall and Fisher Hall, that circular driveway between the two buildings could have been ground zero to where it all happened.

So, again I ask, why wouldn’t investigators follow the one lead that places Tammen in that exact location—in a car, in the driveway between Symmes and Fisher Halls? For some reason, investigators felt the need to steer everyone in a different direction.

 

 

 

 

 

17 thoughts on “My theory on Ron Tammen’s exact location the moment he disappeared, and other thoughts*

  1. Wow! So there it is.
    I think this fits much more than him sitting at his desk and then just taking off.
    He leaves the guys, sees his “connection” sitting there and they chat and he takes off with her.
    Only question I do have though is I thought it was mentioned the light in the room was on when Tammen’s roommate came in?
    But, no matter, this makes much more sense and fits.

    And my goodness. How can you not like Mr. Corbin?

  2. Jenny,

    When I became aware of my brothers disappearance I kept hearing people saying that while making his bed, he rose up, hit the back of his head and from there is when he went missing without a trace. Don’t know if you had heard about this theory or not.

    1. Hi Robert! Great to hear from you! Thank you so much for asking this question, and yes, Marcia shared this theory with me as well. While it makes a lot more sense for Ron to have memory issues from hitting his head as opposed to the university’s explanation, I don’t think that’s what happened for a couple reasons. An amnesia expert explained to me that the type of amnesia that affects past memories, such as remembering one’s identity, is psychogenic, and it’s caused by severe emotional trauma. Physical injury to the brain, caused by severe head trauma, might cause organic amnesia, which would affect a person’s ability to retain things learned in the future. It wouldn’t affect past memories. So if Ron had hit his head hard enough to cause brain injury, he might have difficulty remembering things he learns in the future, but he would know who he was. (Here’s a link to the post on the two types of amnesia: https://ronaldtammen.com/2018/08/02/a-case-of-amnesia-part-1/.) Secondly, I do believe Paul’s story that Ron attended song practice that night, which took place later that evening, after he’d made his bed. As a result, I don’t think Ron had amnesia at all. I think he was walking back from song practice and the woman in the car met him in the driveway and drove him somewhere. But, I’m still gathering evidence. Thanks again for this question!

  3. Wow. Just wow. I am inclined at first blush to believe Logan Corbin. 60 years ago, someone now in their 90’s, sure, it might be easy to pass it off as faulty memory. He wasn’t a publicity seeker, so that falls on the side of credible. I can easily get why a black police officer in Oxford would be inclined to not speak up too much, so that is fine. So we’re left with his word, and his story. Both seem pretty solid.

    As for the Mystery Woman Sighting, as LeRoy says, it fits. It fits really well. But to clarify: When Logan said the Mystery Woman was “out front”, did he identify that was “out front of Symmes Hall”?

    I am having a hard time with this as the witness Paul just has never rung true with me. But this appears to be two independent witnesses corrorborating a salient point….

    1. Very insightful question. The implication was “out front” meant in front of Fisher Hall. He didn’t talk about Symmes Hall at all. He and I were talking about Fisher Hall. One additional thing I should mention: Logan wasn’t the primary investigator on the case. That was Oscar Decker. However, it was a small police force, and he was in on whatever was being discussed among fellow officers.

  4. A good hypothesis has to be consistent. I’m having a little trouble keeping the Psychology book on his desk in a consistent hypothesis with the Mystery Woman(not to mention nearly any other proffered explanation for his disappearance). The problem is the Psychology book doesn’t fit-anything. A book for a class he wasn’t taking……an academically struggling college student was reading for what, fun, enlightenment, personal exploration, something, was reading a textbook of a class he wasn’t in! A very busy student, many outside interests, trying to keep a scholarship, knowing he wasn’t going to, had dropped below fulltime status, had the draft to worry about, took the time to read a textbook of a class he’d dropped!

    I’m just stream of consciousness typing now, no conclusions, but that Psychology book……I think it deserves a lot more attention than it’s getting. I seem to recall another site discussing this case where someone commented (with no proffered authority) the book was a prop for the picture. Boy, does THAT open up a world of conjecture.

    Anyway, back to this blog entry. If the Psych book was for real, if Ron was reading it, but knew that possibly at the drop of a hat or the visit of a Mystery Woman he’d leave his entire life behind, it is hard to reconcile.

    1. Yes, I agree — it’s good to refer back to these earlier details to make sure things mesh. I have a theory, but I need to step away for a little while. I’ll respond a little later today.

      1. OK, I’m back. Before I address your question, I wanted to let you and others know that I’ve posted Carl Knox’s notes IN FULL on the main page of the website, alongside the other documents. (Formerly, I’d been posting them individually, within various blog posts when the topic called for it.)

        We know from Dean Knox’s notes that Ron Tammen’s psych book was on his desk, and opened to a section on HABITS—which Knox writes in all caps, and underlines twice—when Tammen disappeared. Knox also made a note that Tammen had been studying psychology between roughly 3 and 4 p.m. that day. As you recall, I conducted a livestream event on Facebook on April 19, 2018, where I went through the psych book, comparing all the places where the word “Habits” was included in either a section head (written in all caps) or a subhead (bold type). The page spread that appeared to most resemble what was pictured in the April 1954 Hamilton Journal News anniversary article by Joe Cella were pages 294 and 295. FORCE OF HABIT was written in all caps on the left page, and on the right was the subhead “Post-hypnotic suggestion.”

        I believe the university took the psychology book clue seriously. Also in Knox’s notes, you see that he’s written three names: Prof. Dennison (Ron’s adviser), Prof. Delp (a lower-tier psychology instructor, though not Ron’s instructor), and Prof. Switzer (Ron’s psychology professor the semester he disappeared). We also know from a source who spoke with Dr. Switzer after he’d moved to California that he’d been interviewed about Ron going missing, even though Ron had dropped his course.

        I have anecdotal evidence to indicate that Ron was being hypnotized by someone in the psychology department. (Remember the psych student who said that he’d heard from Everett Patten, the psych department chair, that Ron was prone to dissociation, and another student who said the department was recruiting students for hypnosis studies in fall 1952.) As you know, I also have evidence that St. Clair Switzer had close ties with the CIA and had been recruited to assist them in their mind control studies.

        So here’s my theory: Ron has no idea that he’ll be leaving that night, which is why he’s acting so normal. He’s got a few unresolved questions about the hypnosis activities he’s been participating in and looks up the topic in his old psych book. He then does all the stuff that’s been documented doing, including eating dinner, helping Dick Titus study, and changing sheets. He then goes to song practice.

        When he’s coming back from song practice, there’s a car waiting for him in front of Fisher Hall. He recognizes it and gets in. He’s familiar with the woman and they talk for a while. At some point, she tells him that she needs to take him somewhere. Or maybe this is something he’d been preparing for, but didn’t know when it would happen. She says, “OK, it’s time,” something like that…and they drive away.

        Wdyt?

  5. Just randomly tossing out thoughts. I’m not sure they’ll be in my words “consistent” or in your words “mesh”, but here goes:

    The fact he paid his insurance bill the day before categorically tells us he wasn’t planning on leaving.

    In the scheme of things, the “Ok, it’s time” hypothesis strongly suggests the MK Ultra option.

    The Psych book…….the Psych book…….sigh. Okay, I’d forgotten the Knox notes about it. That doesn’t mean that the SCENE (not the photo) wasn’t staged. Man, is this really me trying to create a conspiracy to the point of staging a disappearance scene? Anyway, the SCENE was staged, maybe, and a picture of that staged scene was taken, and Knox recorded it. And how exactly would Knox know exactly what book/field Ron was studying earlier in the day? I’m now Knox trying to justify that claim:

    “Well, we know Ron had sat at his desk studying that day. That college textbook was open on that college student’s desk by the time I got there and a picture of the scene was taken. What else would explain it?”

    Well, ummmmmmmmm. What else would explain the entire disappearance, for crying out loud?! And the way you know that’s what he studied for that entire time is that was the book open at his desk at the moment he left his room? Color me unconvinced.

    Okay, I’ll get off my conspiracy kick, but that Psych book….something is just not right there. I will accept a roommate might not notice what class you might have dropped, but how did Knox not notice this issue?

    I am getting obsessive on the matter as you can tell. The most reasonable train of thought would be the thought he was trying hypnosis for the sake of his sexuality. But that doesn’t jibe with up and leaving. So either it’s something outrageous like MK Ultra, or there is an outrageous disconnect between him telling another student “I need to study”, and reading up for sort of personal reasons, and leaving his entire life behind a couple hours later. You don’t seem to see this like me, but the fact that book in the famous picture of Ron Tammen’s room was for a class HE WASN’T IN is a stunning piece of evidence uncovered. Can’t get my head around this…….

    1. I’m certain that Carl Knox knew why the open psych book was strange. That’s why he listed the two psych profs in addition to Ron’s adviser in his notes, and why he interviewed Switzer, even though Ron was no longer in his class. I’m also sure that he noted that the book was open to “HABITS” instead of “Post-hypnotic Suggestion” because the former wouldn’t raise any red flags while the latter definitely would. As far as a possible staging? Yeah, it’s possible, but let’s look at the big picture. The open psychology book points directly to one person: St. Clair Switzer, who was very likely working for the CIA. My main talking point is this: if I can prove that the CIA and MKULTRA got within an arm’s length of Ronald Tammen the semester that he disappeared — and we’re very close to doing that, imo — then it’s a safe bet that they were the cause of his disappearance. How they managed to pull it off — the hypnosis, the woman in the car, plus who knows what else they were doing back then — I’m still trying to figure out.

  6. That’s a big if, obviously. But…it fits. The woman in the car fits in that scenario perfectly. College kid, visited by an older woman in a car, people might raise their eyebrows, but no major red flags.

    On the other hand, it seems clear Ron was gay. I am hard pressed to think of a scenario where the woman in a car fits in his life. Maybe their meetings could have been less public, conducted by phone, something. But hiding in plain sight works too. He might not have minded people thinking she was a romantic interest, something of a beard. Lots of maybes here.

    Well, I admire your battle against the odds. I wish there were more corroborating witnesses on the song practice and especially the Mystery Woman. I wish you could have gotten more from Logan earlier. There’s an awful lot of smoke here, if not a smoking gun. 60 some years on, you’d think the CIA would come clean.

    1. Hi. Here are my responses:
      Graf 1: Plus, it’s in the dark…on a Sunday night…she’s a known commodity…she wouldn’t draw attention….
      Graf 2: No argument here.
      Graf 3: Thanks. As far as more corroborating witnesses, I’d love to find more too. But I’ll take what I can get and will keep looking. And honestly, Logan and Paul were/are extremely credible. But keep listening to the podcast. I feel that the university was trying to steer people away from the psych department, and using Gilson Wright to help do so. They held back information, they didn’t pursue leads. Sorry if you feel it’s smoky, but I’m turning over whatever I can find. As far as the CIA goes, if it was left up to them, they’d never come clean. I’ll still try to force it though. Sometimes truth wins.

  7. “Under the 10:30 p.m. scenario, Ron had walked back to the dorms with Paul and Chip. He dropped them both off at Symmes Hall, and then headed toward Fisher Hall. But Ron never made it back to his room in Fisher. How do we know that? We know it because that’s roughly when his roommate, Chuck Findlay, had returned from his weekend in Dayton. Chuck never saw Ron.”

    Hmm. Very interesting turn of events!

    Does this mean Ron had the PSYCH book and all his belongings (even his wallet) that were all found on his desk, all laid out before he left for the evening with Paul and Chip? If that’s the case, then that tells me that he must’ve had been given a serious tip that the evening of April 19th might be his last at Miami. And if so, his meeting at the “Rendevous Point,” with the Lady from Hamilton, would be the “confirmation” if such plans were a definite go/no-go.

    And from what I gathered a few years ago about learning of this mysterious woman, my impression was that their long visit in the car was a serious pep talk, to make sure he was ready to go. Ready in the right frame of mind. Ready to go forward, never looking back. So in hindsight, she knew he was ready and willing to take that first . . . and last step . . . in his disappearance.

    But on the other hand, concerning the book and his belongings on the desk, StevieJ makes a great point about the book that could have been staged. If that’s the case, then his belongings on the desk were staged too! And now, another possibility comes to mind . . . if they were staged, perhaps it wasn’t Ron who put those items there at all.

    For all we know, it would have been someone else who got word that the evening of the 19th was indeed the target date and timing. So it could have been a staff member who snuck in and staged his desk before 10:30 p.m. Call me crazy, but my first pick would be Carl Knox or a Miami associate of his that would have done it. Personally, I always felt he knew the truth about Ron’s disappearance. Heck, even stated in ‘The Phantom of Oxford,’ documentary series in the late 70s, that he believed Ron was still alive in the world. Knox knew a lot and purposely helped steer and spin Ron’s case in a totally different direction and perspective.

    1. Thanks for these thoughts, Brett. As far as the possible staging, it’s possible, and if someone did stage the scene, I have to thank them, because that book is central to my theory. The fact that Knox wrote in his notes that Tammen was studying psychology from 3 to 4 p.m. would be evidence against the staging, but maybe not. If the room was staged, I can’t think of any way that I could prove it. What I *can* prove is that the university was keeping the psych book hidden from the public. That’s what I plan to be revealing with the next episode of the podcast. And if investigators felt the psych book was important enough to keep from the public, it’s important to the case.

      1. Thanks, J. I’m sooo looking forward to the next podcast. Sounds like I’ll be getting my copy of the PSYCH book down off the shelf again very soon! I can’t wait to take another swan dive down into this mysterious rabbit hole! 😉👍

      2. This podcast has inspired me to look at clues in a new light. I always had a hunch the university was keeping the psychology book hidden. I now have visible proof of their deception. It’s pretty mind blowing, I think.

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