Proof of a cover-up

The myriad ways Gilson Wright described Tammen’s open textbook without ever once using the word ‘psychology’

(Supplement to season 2, episode 4 of The One That Got Away)

One of the topics that Josh, Tyler, and I discuss in episode 4 of The One That Got Away, which dropped tonight, is the psychology book that was open on Ron’s desk the night he disappeared. We’d already established on this blog site that Joe Cella was the first reporter to reveal that it was a psychology book, and he did so in his one-year anniversary article, published in the Hamilton Journal News on April 22, 1954. Later still, 23 years after Tammen disappeared, we learned that the book was opened to “Habits,” thanks again to the intrepid Joe Cella, on April 18, 1976.

In preparing for the podcast, I thought it might be fun to document all the ways that book was mentioned in the press during the 1953-1976 time period by the two reporters who covered the case the longest, along with one other major reporter. I wanted to find out how that uber dull yet utterly intriguing psychology book became part of the Tammen narrative.

Well. 

Below is a chart I created of news articles about the Tammen disappearance that mention the textbook on Ron Tammen’s desk. The three primary reporters were: Joe Cella, a reporter for the Hamilton Journal News who followed the case for more than 20 years; Murray Seeger, a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who wrote one well-researched article in 1956; and Gilson Wright, a journalism professor at Miami, who also was a freelance stringer/correspondent for area papers, and a long-time adviser to student journalists at the Miami Student. Because he was a Miami employee, Wright had a conflict of interest when reporting on the Tammen case in area papers, and it shows.

Click on chart for a closer view.
Click on chart for a closer view.

As you can see, only Cella and Seeger refer to the book on Tammen’s desk as his psychology book, as highlighted in red. At no time—ever, in his entire reporting career—does Gilson Wright refer to the book as a psychology book. (He retired from Miami in 1970, but kept writing for area newspapers on occasion.) Even when he was aware of Cella’s reveal in April 1954, Wright continued to refer to it as a book or books, or a textbook or textbooks. And if the university’s search algorithm didn’t let me down, it wasn’t until 1988—35 years after Tammen disappeared and 18 years after Wright had retired—that a reporter for the Miami Student, Julie Shaw, finally described the book as a psychology textbook. 

Gilson Wright photo
joe cella hamilton journal-news early 1950s_1 copy
Seeger

left to right: Gilson Wright, Joe Cella, and Murray Seeger 

This is tangible evidence that Gilson Wright was being used by the university to hide Ron’s psychology textbook from the curious public. Officials likely didn’t want people to find out that Ron was no longer enrolled in his psychology course, and to question why the book would be there. I believe they were attempting to steer reporters and others away from the psychology department because of their hypnosis activities at that time, which could implicate them in his disappearance. If Tammen’s psych book was opened to the page I think it was opened to, that would have worried them even more.

The pages I believe Ron’s psychology book was opened to when he disappeared. Note the reference to “Post-hypnotic suggestion” on page 295. For a full description, go to Facebook.com/agmihtf, and watch the video from April 19, 2018.

How Joe Cella obtained the information about the textbook, I don’t know. He may have had inside sources. Maybe Chuck Findlay told him. Remember that Cella’s April 22, 1954, article also included photographs of Tammen’s room after he disappeared, which also showed the open book on Tammen’s desk. [Article is provided with the permission of the Hamilton Journal-News and Cox Media Group Ohio.] From what I can tell, those were the first and last times those photos were ever published. I’m also not sure how Cella discovered the information about “Habits,” 23 years after Tammen disappeared. My guess is that he may have obtained it from Carl Knox. By then, Knox had moved to Florida, and had agreed to appear in The Phantom of Oxford with Cella in 1976. Perhaps Knox told Cella about the book pages then because he didn’t think it would cause a ruckus by that time.

I’ve pointed to two other examples in which Gilson Wright would report one thing and then never report it again. On June 29, 1953, he reported in the Hamilton Journal News that the visitor’s time of arrival at Mrs. Spivey’s house, according to Mrs. Spivey, was “about 11 o’clock,” and then referred to it as “about midnight” from that point on. Also, it was Wright who wrote the April 26, 1953, article about a phone call to Tammen’s parents from the parents of three students who had memory loss and wandered away but who later returned. That disclosure was reported once and then quickly forgotten, almost as if Wright himself had had a sudden attack of amnesia.

The article by Wright that I believe was in The Cincinnati Enquirer. (See second column, 2nd full paragraph.)

Although Wright probably had the best of intentions in his reporting at the start, it appears as if someone at the university sat him down and gave him his marching orders. His cookie-cutter articles on the Tammen case year after year with no new revelations are indicative of a man living within boundaries. It was as if he was doing everything in his power not to mention that psych book, because, by God, he never did, even after Cella let the cat out of the bag.

In an April 11, 1977, article for the Dayton Daily News, Cella is quoted as saying: “The university covered it up. They wouldn’t give you any answers.”

Damn, Joe—I do believe you’re right, and the above chart helps prove it. If Gilson Wright and his superiors were going to these lengths to hide Ron’s psychology textbook from public view, then they obviously felt that it was important to the case. 

I don’t know about you, but this tells me that we’re on the right track.

35 thoughts on “Proof of a cover-up

  1. Who or what did Julie Shaw cite as her reference to a psychology textbook in the Miami Student?

    1. No citation, but it was likely Joe Cella’s work or Carl Knox’s notes, which are the ultimate source of the info. I don’t know when Knox’s notes were turned over to University Archives. I’ll check into that tomorrow and will report back. Thanks!

      1. Just wanted to update everyone that I’ve asked someone from University Archives when they obtained Carl Knox’s notes and they’ll be getting back to me sometime after they return to the office Monday.

  2. There is no doubt that there was an orchestrated cover-up from the very beginning. Hmm, now my previous thoughts and agreement about the possibility of the “PSYCH” book (Look! I even said it too!) might have been staged are now thrown out the window. I think we all can agree about what we knew all along—that the book is probably the most incriminating evidence . . . hidden in plain sight!

    But that still leaves another question of when Ron left all his belongings on his desk with the book?! Perhaps he could have made his way back to his room from he last saw Chip and Paul and acted quickly to do so before Charles returned.

    I agree that Wright was being coerced, directed, and possibly threatened to take a different route on the media path. It’s to the point we can smell the cover-up.

    But—why was Ron’s case investigated so haphazardly and shutdown so quickly?! I think it may now be obvious the CIA (and quite possibly the FBI) had dealing hands in the powers at play long before Ron disappeared. Some kind of deep, secret preparation of involved. And Knox knew it all along!

    Which leads me to some recent thinking the last few weeks . . . if the CIA recruited Ron, for who knows what: MKULTRA, Cold War spy activities, whatever the case, you have to think about WHY they wanted him. An unfinished college student. Someone who always appeared quiet and private. There must have been something else nobody realized then, and even unto now.

    Yes, his musical skills, and definitely his wrestling experience may have factored in (hand-to-hand combat), but there has to be something more.

    Looking foward to listening to episode 4 of the podcast tomorrow night!

    1. Yeah, I mean I always knew that Joe Cella had broken both pieces of news–the book and the section on Habits–but I’ll admit that I never realized that Wright had never included either detail in anything he ever wrote. This was news to me. As for Ron’s wallet, keys, etc., I honestly don’t think he had them on him when he went to song practice. Why would he need them, you know? He was just running over to the fraternity house and then coming right back. And as far as why the CIA would want him? Well…according to the former psychology student who’d spoken with Everett Patten (the psychology dept chair and a hypnosis expert with Switzer), Ron was supposedly prone to dissociation (see: https://ronaldtammen.com/2018/08/09/a-case-of-amnesia-part-2/). That tells me that he was highly suggestible, and a good candidate for hypnosis experiments. So that might be one reason. Another reason might have been some crisis Tammen was in (e.g., grades slipping, losing scholarship, losing college deferment) that he desperately needed out of. And remember the hypothesis that Ron may have been gay or bisexual, which the CIA could have had an interest in. But I think this at least proves what we’d always suspected: Miami’s psychology department was at the center of Tammen’s disappearance…

  3. Is there any significance to the various references to “book” and “books” on the desk? Just wondering.

    It was odd to read this post after my last obsessive post about that cursed Psych book. You were holding out on me!

    1. Hey, Stevie J — I’m attaching Carl Knox’s note that only refers to one book, Ron’s psych book open to Habits. (Sorry — I should have included it in my post to make it easier on people.) Then, if you follow the link to the 4-22-54 Hamilton Journal News photos, you see that it was indeed only one book on his side of the desk: https://ronaldtammen.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/hamiltondailynewsjournal-apr221954p-22.pdf. The note says one book, and the photos show one book…so the fact that Wright was saying “books” or “textbooks” on occasion was, in my view, purposefully deceitful to begin with. To not specify which textbook was open after Joe Cella had disclosed that info was also deceitful. As for holding out on you, I promise that I wasn’t. 🙂 I worked up the chart the night before we taped the podcast, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Until then, I had no idea Gilson Wright had never acknowledged it was a psychology book. That totally amazed me.

      1. P.S. Oops, that photo is way too small for some reason. If you go to the bottom of the homepage, you can click on all of Carl Knox’s notes and scroll to the one that says HABITS at the bottom.

  4. Interesting detail I noticed..in 1953, Wright referenced a “study table” 6 times, a “table” 1 time, and a “desk” 2 times. From 1954 on, he referenced a “table” 1 time, and a “desk” 18 times. There is NO way his terminology randomly changed that much.

    Did students ever call that a “study table”? Sure looks like a “desk” to me. Cella called it a “desk” all 4 times he mentioned it. Something is very strange here.

    1. Hmmmm…I agree—it’s weird. Interestingly, he only used the terms “table” or “study table” for area papers. Articles for the Miami Student all said “desk,” because that’s what it was. Maybe he was embarrassed by how similar all of his articles were, year in and year out, and felt guilty collecting money for them when nothing was different. So he’d just rearrange some of the copy and swap out a few words to make it different. Good catch.

    2. Still looking at this because I agree that it’s weird. My theory doesn’t really hold up because all of the times that “study table” was used was at the beginning. You’d think he’d start out by using the term desk and get creative later if it was merely about changing up the copy. It’s also interesting that WHENEVER he uses the term table or study table, he always uses the plural term–books. I wonder if he’s quoting someone there…Carl Knox maybe? Carl might have called it a “study table,” and Gilson went with that term the first several times. The first Miami Student article introduced the word desk. Wright would then revert a bit, talking about the table, and then went all in with desk later. But that’s my guess: that he was quoting a university official, possibly Carl Knox, who was also using the term “books,” and thus inaccurately describing what was actually on Ron’s desk.

    3. Oh my gosh, I think I know who says “study table.” Not the students — they’d call it a desk. Also, not a parent or someone outside of the university…they’d say desk too. But a university official who ORDERS the tables would call it a study table. Why? Because it really isn’t a desk, per se. It’s a two-sided table that serves as a desk for two students. So I can see the item in the catalog being called a study table. And so the person who is responsible for ordering said study tables by the hundreds — someone from the Housing Division, say — would inadvertently refer to it as a study table. So my guess is that Carl Knox called it a study table and also referred to “books,” instead of one open psychology book. If anyone wants to weigh in, I’m interested in your thoughts…but I may be shopping on eBay for an old institutional furniture catalogue from the 1950s…

  5. Q: Who calls it a “study table”?
    A: University officials do.

    This excerpt, courtesy of the 1952-53 M Book, refers to a study table that’s in each incoming freshman male’s dorm room. So my theory is that Gilson Wright is quoting someone — Carl Knox in my view — who is telling Wright about finding books–plural–on Ron’s study table, even though Carl Knox had only found ONE book on the study table and that one, singular book happened to be a PSYCH book opened to HABITS and post-hypnotic suggestion. So…I think what we’ve learned here is that university officials kicked off the cover-up very, very early, and Wright helped keep it going.

  6. We’re getting really close to the point where you’re going to have to decide if Carl Knox was:

    A. A well meaning but untrained, overworked, overmatched administrator who ill advisedly took on a task he should have rightfully declined

    or

    B. A brazen manipulator of the narrative of a disturbing public disappearance of a student under his oversight: a disappearance causing untold anguish in the Miami community and decades of grief and uncertainty in the family.

    I can’t find much middle ground. Them’s the stakes here.

    Many other thoughts going on here. Your charts have inspired me to consider a chart of the various pieces of evidence, how solid they are, and whether they point toward/away from an MK Ultra conspiracy.

  7. Thinking about this…a few questions. In 1953, what would the consensus position be among professional psychologists regarding “amnesia” as a possible explanation for the disappearance? If it was considered a poor explanation, how is it the Miami psychology professors directly involved in the story never refuted it? How is it no other Miami psychology professors addressed it? How is it no other professionals outside the Miami community addressed it? I understand professional courtesy and all, but really? Got some more questions I’m pondering.

    1. Great questions. As far as I can tell, no other psychologists weighed in — inside or outside Miami — other than Everett Patten, the department chair. If I’m to believe my source from the psychology dept who spoke with Patten about it (I’ve been calling him Peter), there’d supposedly been that university panel that was the source of the amnesia theory and it was supposedly chaired by Patten. The panel would have signified consensus, and Patten’s word would have carried a lot of weight, so probably no one else would have felt the need to say anything more. But as I’ve mentioned, there’s no record of the article that Peter supposedly read concerning the panel. (I know…I’m using the word “supposedly” a lot…) I’m wondering if Patten had said a lot more in that missing article–including perhaps something damning that might have freaked out someone with inside knowledge, someone with the power to have the article pulled from circulation. Although I may not ever be able to locate the article, I’m currently looking for signs that one existed. One key way is to see if any student reporters/editors at that time recall Gilson Wright ordering a second edition to be printed for a particular day, replacing the first edition. I know that sounds far-fetched, but I truly do believe that Peter read something that would have initiated that conversation that he remembered very clearly. And Everett Patten was the university’s sole spokesperson on amnesia up till his retirement in 1965. A couple other points: in almost all Tammen-related articles where Patten is quoted (except for one right before he retired), he “refused” to comment on the Tammen case specifically, but would talk about amnesia in general. Perhaps he didn’t refuse in Peter’s article and was reprimanded for it. I also have indications that there may have been a split between Drs. Patten and Switzer immediately before Patten retired, when Switzer was department chair. I wonder if perhaps Patten started to put two and two together. OK, I know I’ve gone a little off topic and have probably said too much, so I’ll stop here. 🙂

  8. Another question. In 1950’s America, the prevailing view of homosexuality was it could be cured by psychotherapy. Is it possible Ron entered into hypnosis/psychotherapy on that basis, and then when most vulnerable-perhaps hypnotized-taken advantage of for MK Ultra purposes? I mean, it sort of fits….”You won’t remember a thing, who you are,” etc. Crazy, I know, but…MK Ultra is crazy! You’re turning me into a conspiracy fanatic Jen!

    1. Wow! Yeah, I’ve been thinking that may have been why he was hypnotized too. But for someone in the psych dept to pull a switcheroo on him and do the mind control stuff without him even knowing it? Wow—that’s a new perspective, and I like it.

  9. I just read the Ron Tammen page on the Miami Alumni site(while listening to the Seaon Finale of The One That Got Away):

    https://www.miamialum.org/s/916/16/interior.aspx?pgid=417

    And it says:
    ” Tammen took the sheets and returned to his dorm room to study psychology. It was the last time he was definitely seen alive. At 10:30 p.m., Tammen’s roommate returned to find Tammen’s psychology book laying open on his desk and all the room lights on. ”

    Two specific references to “psychology”. Can you find out when that was written? Who wrote it? Their source for the Psychology references?

    For all the murkiness, it’s a bit surprising that an official Miami website would get that right.

    1. Thanks, I’ll check. And thanks for listening to the podcast. Fwiw, I still haven’t heard back regarding when Carl Knox’s notes were turned over to University Archives and thus made public. (Part of the reason for the delay could be covid-related. I realize people have higher priorities these days.) And remember the student reporter — Julie Shaw — was the first to mention it in The Miami Student in the late 1980s. I plan to reach out to her too but haven’t yet, although I’ve been contacting other student reporters from 1953. My thinking is that the university needed to keep things quiet back then, when things were happening in real time. Whenever this posted, everyone who was involved in the cover-up was long gone, so whoever posted it couldn’t have appreciated the significance. But I’ll see what I can find out.

  10. Per your statement in TOTGA that fingerprints are the best means of identification next to DNA, in fact, fingerprints are the #1 means of identification. They beat DNA because identical twins have different fingerprints despite the same DNA. 😉

  11. Going through all the Podcasts. Episode 1, they get into the comment that foul play was unlikely, since Ron was young and strong and rugged. Just hearing someone else say that reminded me of what a stupid statement it really was. I have to agree. Some of Miami’s admins said some really stupid stuff in this case….

    1. Totally agree. Especially since we know that they’d spoken with two guys who said they’d walked from song practice to Symmes Hall with him. I’d think he could have been jumped between Symmes and Fisher. It seems to me that officials were already in coverup mode when they said that.

  12. While it’s on my mind……a big picture thought I’ve been considering for a couple weeks. It’s really not new for me, but after listening to a couple of the podcasts, the thought really solidified in my mind. That is, it is really hard to believe there are any other alternatives to these two possibilities.

    1. Ron died very shortly after his disappearance.

    2. Ron had a lot of help from high sources in his disappearance.

    I guess anything is possible, but I can’t imagine someone could leave everything behind, start a new life, and stay undiscovered. It just doesn’t happen.

    1. Yep, exactly—I prefer #2, but you’re right. Hopefully the FBI will come thru with those additional record sheets I’ve foia’d so we can see why they tossed his fingerprints. That would help us determine whether it’s 1 or 2.

  13. Another while it’s on my mind post….I can’t get away from the 2 options of Ron’s disappearance: He died very shortly afterward, or he was helped in his disappearance. What happens to all the evidence in this case when you have to decide which of the 2 it fits best? If I had a week, I would read the whole site over and decide.

    The strange part is that either choice is really outlandish and extremely unlikely….but here we are. College students just don’t disappear….what are the odds? The rare conspiracy theory happens, but what are the odds of any one individual getting caught up in one? Despite the astronomical odds on either one happening, I simply can’t find a reasonable option that comes close to fitting the facts of this case beyond those two.

    1. For me, the FBI’s fingerprint purge is the answer. If they purged his prints because he’d been confirmed dead for 7 years, then he would have lived an additional 42 years. That’s my hope. (Also, I hope that those 42 years were happy ones.) And if he lived 42 years, he would have been helped in his disappearance. But there’s also the chance that they purged his prints for some other reason, though they’d have broken protocol to do that. If I win my FOIA appeal and the FBI still has the Additional Record Sheets from Ron’s fingerprint jacket, we can get the answer to the question of why they purged his prints. (Again, hopefully….) And I think that will help us narrow things down from those two options.

  14. Listening now to “Why Ron’s Psych Textbook Had Miami Officials So Worried” Patton said Ron had a dissociative disorder? WOW! I have no reason to think Peter got that wrong. The average person would have no idea how shocking that is, so Peter wouldn’t be all that likely to make that up. People with “stories” usually go for the big lie, something dramatic. I don’t think this one would strike the average person as dramatic, even though to the professional, it is . As a professional, Patton for sure would know that. That’s a big issue.

    That really changes the narrative of the 3 Ohio youths in a big way. It definitely suggests those were in fact students at Miami who had post hypnotic dissociative issues. As you say in the podcast, we can’t know for sure. But as you know, I’m hard to convince, and I lean very strongly toward yes.

    The explanation that Wright was told to quit reporting on it is in fact the Occam’s Razor best explanation.

    1. I agree. That was a big turning point for me. It drives me crazy that I can’t find the article Peter was referring to about Patten. I’ve been tracking down people who worked on the Miami Student back then, one of whom was in charge of distribution. That person would have known if there was a second edition put out around campus. But maybe a revised version was printed just for the archives? It feels like a stretch. I’m still looking into it.

  15. I can confirm the Cincinnati Enquirer did in fact run 2 different issues a day through the 80’s. I worked overnight in Cincinnati, and there’d be an issue run to the newspaper boxes that would happen a little after 2 AM. Another issue would be loaded up around 8 AM. It was a big deal for the employees, as we always wanted to know the Reds game score, and it would typically not be in the early issue. I recall some stories would make the early edition and not be in the later edition for whatever reason. They always called the 2 AM issue the “Ohio Issue” and the 8 AM the “Cincinnati Issue”.

    One specific difference in the editions was the Metro section. The “Ohio Edition” would have more stories about the state of Ohio, while the “Cincinnati Edition” would be almost all Cincinnati related. I think the rationale was that they didn’t have enough Cincinnati news at 2 AM to fill that section of the newspaper, so they’d use Ohio stuff instead. Then the later edition would generate more Cincinnati news. Anyway, if I haven’t bored you with this, there’s no question they issued 2 totally different editions every day.

  16. Yes, I would guess the Student would be less apt to print 2 editions than the Enquirer as a weekly production. Not sure why that got me going so much.

    Maybe ask Miami Student employees if they would put out a first edition in limited numbers to catch errors, etc?

    1. The guy in charge of circulation back then didn’t recall any second editions ever, but, I don’t know. I think there are a couple others I can try asking.

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