Sorry to be a bother, you guys, but I can’t keep this in. This afternoon, I was busy working on — what else? — Tammen research when I discovered something pertinent to our topic du jour. In the summer of 2019, I was visiting University Archives (sigh…I really miss road trips) going through a bunch of documents. On that particular day, I was leafing through issues of their Information Bulletin for Faculty and Staff from the early 1950s — 1950 and 1952 to be exact. As I recall, the university didn’t produce a new bulletin every year. Sometimes they just produced an addendum. Fortunately, I had taken photos of numerous pages — some relevant to the topic I was obsessing about at that moment, and a couple having to do with what I’m obsessing about now: student loans.
Here’s what they had to say about student loans in the 1950 issue (apologies for the bad photos, but I’m guessing you’re used to that by now):
And here’s what they had to say about them in the 1952 addendum, right around the time when Ron would have been applying for one:
Here are the points I want to leave you with today:
- Student loans were a big deal.
- Since Ron was a sophomore, his loan would have been limited to $100.
- I’m guessing that Ron had been a recipient of this loan, and it’s the same one that Mr. Alden had written up when discussing Ron’s outstanding debt.
- And the juiciest tidbit of all: our friend H.H. Stephenson oversaw the student loan program.
So H.H. Stephenson was overseeing the student loan program when Ron received his loan. That loan may have even been relatively recent, since Carl Knox’s notes indicate that Ron had recently deposited a $100 check from a loan. What this tells me is that H.H. Stephenson was even better acquainted with Ron than we had previously known. Sure, sure, H.H. knew him because he’d given him a car permit. But he’d also just handed him $100! Could that be one of the reasons the university kept a lid on H.H.’s potential Ron sighting — they didn’t want the money issue to come out? What’s more, for me at least, it also makes the potential sighting more believable.
What does it tell you?
I sort of lean toward Anonymous’ view here. It is extremely hard to take Hi Stephenson seriously. As I said before, how did that conversation go in his mind? “Hey, there’s that guy part of the biggest mystery in the history of Miami, disappeared, and here I am looking him right in the eye. Well, whatever. The meatloaf special looks good.”
But….the fact he did report it after all, does sort of give it a bit more credibility. I’d have been a bit embarrassed to tell that story knowing I’d be challenged about my actions. The fact he did shows some sense he believed in what he was doing at that point.
I’m not sure just how directly Stephenson was in the loan process. I don’t think we can assume he saw Ron during that. After all, everyone getting a loan doesn’t necessarily meet the manager. Maybe you can look into whether Stephenson or underlings interviewed the loan applicants. I’m still skeptical, but I will concede this moves me a little closer to believing it.
Well, that nobody checked up on the hotel to see the guest list is yet another astounding oversight. That was something they could have done legally, I would think, since H.H. would certainly be a credible witness, who thought he saw Ron. Even if the group didn’t stay at the hotel, if the staff had been questioned the next day, they’d probably have remembered something interesting. Come to think of it, H.H. could have looked for license plates in the parking lot. It doesn’t sound like it was very big. Was there some sort of MK Ultra hypno-thing forwarded to him too, to keep him from approaching the group in the restaurant, or investigating further himself at the hotel?
I totally agree that there was lots they could have done, and the FBI seemed to have an interest in Tammen, even though they wouldn’t admit as much. As for HH being hypnotized, another person had asked that question a while back–as if Ron’s lookalike was hypnotizing HH from across the room. I consulted a couple hypnosis experts on that question and they said that it couldn’t be done from across the room, since you’d need the hypnotist to be speaking/suggesting something to them. But as for other possible ways they might have interfered, not sure…HH’s bemusement at his own inaction in the restaurant is interesting.
Forgive me, but after two beers I may have missed the point. Ron applied for a loan and got it. H. H. Stephenson was loan officer. Is there a problem?
Lol. Lots of intricacies here: 1) Ron was having money troubles when he disappeared, 2) the university was not being forthcoming about it for some reason, 3) HH was the same Housing official who had thought he’d spotted Ron on Aug 5, 1953, in Wellsville, NY, and who obviously knew Ron a little better than was previously realized. That gives the sighting a little more credence, in my view.
“Could that be one of the reasons the university kept a lid on H.H.’s potential Ron sighting — they didn’t want the money issue to come out? What’s more, for me at least, it also makes the potential sighting more believable.”
Thanks for these 2-parter tidbits, J!
Wow! This is an interesting turn of events to learn that Stephenson was more heavily linked to Ron than we previously thought.
You bet that could be the case and reason why Stephenson’s Wellsville sighting was kept under wraps! University officials probably also feared if this loan connection was made public from the Stephenson sighting, it might have put him and the school in a bad light. The public possibly might have perceived it as a monetary meetup like Stephenson was there (or on behalf of Miami officials) to further aid Ron and his getaway plan. Something that would start pointing the fingers at staff, especially Switzer.
Honestly, that whole Wellsville incident still hangs heavily on my mind. Something wasn’t right about the whole thing. And I do believe it was Ron that he saw. And from you learning about hypnosis—of what it can and cannot do, there was just something else at play during that event. Something just absolutely awry. I still can’t describe it.
Also, when this pandemic is over (whenever that is) I’m thinking of traveling to Oxford to do a Leica photojournalism project about this case.
I’m inclined to think it was Ron in Wellsville too—now more than ever. Given all of these details they wanted to keep from the public, can you imagine what Carl Knox was thinking when HH walked in the office when he got back from his vacay and said he just saw Ron?! 😆Your Leica project sounds interesting.
I would have loved to have seen the look on Knox’s face at that moment. I wonder how many inquisitive questions he must have asked before he ran back to his office, making a long series of phone calls in the form of smoke signals, warnings to the inner circle.
Looking at a map again of Wellsville. My hunch has always been from a straight-line point of reference from the location of Oxford, that Ron and the men he was with were traveling north. And certainly not heading south, or east, toward New York City. I say north into Canada is what I’ve always felt. A 3 hour, 28-minute drive from Wellsville to Toronto!
Perhaps, Ron and these men were pivotal players with the CIA in setting up the ominous MKULTA program in Montreal years later.
Interesting…I agree that this is another possibility.
Just wondering … H.H. did go back into the restaurant, after telling his wife about the sighting in the parking lot. By then the men had left. I wonder how they left? Not through the front door. Were they staying at the hotel? Left through the backdoor? Hid in a hallway thinking H.H. might return for another observation? How long was the interval between leaving and going back?
Yeah, so weird. Unfortunately, we don’t know how long, but it was depicted in the news as a short time. Like they walked out in the street and then went right back in. I guess that was my frustration that no investigators followed up on HH’s story. The FBI’s Buffalo office could have checked to see if the hotel/inn had any info to identify the men. To not even ask Hi “which hotel?” seems very curious to me.
I worked in a student loan office GWU, early 1980s. At that time the student loan applications had to be signed by one of the parents, no matter the age of the student. The reason had to do with parents verifying the student not getting sufficient financial resources from the parents to pay the tuition. Also, something to do with the parents’ income taxes, I think.
Thank you, Charlotte!
I am actually pretty stumped by the visit to Ron’s parents. Perhaps they felt morally obligated, but Ron was an adult. Unless things have really changed since then, his parents would not have been responsible for paying it.
Great point. I was wondering why they weren’t going to the faculty members who cosigned those loans…unless we’re talking about other loans.