More evidence that St. Clair Switzer was on the CIA’s payroll

Plus a bonus puzzler: Let’s make a little history and break some CIA code

Have you had enough holiday yet? Same. You want to do something kinda wild during this down week before New Year’s? Me too.

Let’s break some CIA code.

The CIA code I’m referring to can be found on a large number of MKULTRA documents that have already been released to the public. According to Google, the project I’m proposing has never been done before. If we can do this—and I believe that we can—we’ll be ripping open a whole new portal into the top secret world of MKULTRA. 

You heard me right. Us. Remember us? The ones who, I believe, first put two and two together to reveal Commander Robert Jay Williams as the former project coordinator of Project ARTICHOKE? The first ones who let the universe at-large know about St. Clair Switzer’s MKULTRA connections? The ones who discovered—much to the consternation of the FBI—why they’d purged Ron Tammen’s fingerprints 30 years ahead of schedule? We’re qualified to do this. We’re credentialed. The good news is that we won’t even be starting at square one. I do believe I’ve figured out some of the code already. And the better news is that the code I’ve figured out tells me that St. Clair Switzer was indeed working for the CIA at some point of his career. They said so themselves. Let’s do this!

Background

At an unknown point in time, one or more persons within the CIA had gone through every surviving MKULTRA document and, on many of them, had written a letter of the alphabet and sometimes an accompanying number alongside key places of redacted text. The alphabetical list isn’t very long. It starts with the letter A and ends with H.** To the best of my knowledge, only three numbers were used: 3, 6, and, on the rarest of occasions, 1.

The letters or letter-number combos appear to refer to a person who is employed by an organization, the organization as a whole, or, very generally, a place, be it domestic or international. The CIA categorizers, as we shall refer to them, probably did this because lots and lots of names are dropped in CIA memos. It’s useful to have some additional identifying information about who Joe Blow is and what his role is in the grand scheme of things. 

I don’t know who the intended audience is or was of this helpful, categorized information. The CIA staffers of the future? The guys and gals in the business wing at Langley who were keeping the books? (If you’ll recall, most of the MKULTRA docs had been destroyed in 1973, so the only surviving records originated with the people in accounting.) Given the CIA’s distaste for the Freedom of Information Act, I doubt very much that they were doing it to help out you and me. 

But therein lies the poetic justice in all of this: even as someone at the CIA was busily crossing out names and job titles and hometowns and whatnot, someone else at the CIA was actually offering up a clue into a certain person’s identity. Very, VERY cool of you, CIA. 

The puzzle

You know the letter that I believe was written by Louis Jolyon West to the CIA on February 6, 1957? In that letter, the man whom I believe to be Jolly West refers to another man who is spending the 1956-57 academic year helping him with his research. It was (I believe) West’s intention to create a hypnotic messenger during the summer of ‘57 and to have his eminently qualified helper, well, help him. And it’s my hypothesis that his helper was St. Clair Switzer, who was Ronald Tammen’s psychology professor the semester that Tammen disappeared.

At that point in our country’s history, the CIA and U.S. military wanted to learn as much as possible about interrogation techniques that could be used on prisoners of war, such as those involving hypnosis and drugs. They wanted to learn how they could elicit treasure troves of intelligence from POWs that the Americans had captured, and, conversely, how to ensure that American POWs wouldn’t give away the store to their captors. The interrogation aspect of the CIA’s mind control endeavors was known as Project ARTICHOKE, which was later broadened in scope beyond POWs. The creation of a hypnotic messenger—someone who could be hypnotized to deliver a detailed message of high sensitivity to an intended recipient without ever knowing what the message was—would’ve been right up the CIA’s alley back then. 

Let’s begin by reexamining that letter, which was mailed to the CIA’s Morse Allen to accompany the hypnotic messenger proposal. The author (who, again, I believe to be Louis Jolyon West) has the letter C written next to his blacked-out name. The letter-number written next to his associate’s name is H-B/6. If we could figure out the meaning of H-B/6, we could further strengthen, or weaken, our argument that Jolly West’s helper was St. Clair Switzer. 

Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view

After rereading a lot of MKULTRA documents—especially those pertaining to Project ARTICHOKE—and comparing notations from one document to the next, I think I’ve figured out the meaning of H-B/6. And (spoiler alert!) I believe that our argument has been strengthened. What’s more, I think I’ve found additional evidence to show that the CIA welcomed St. Clair Switzer to its cadre of hypnosis researchers with open arms.

The letters

The letters and letter-number combinations that the CIA uses throughout the MKULTRA documents, some more frequently than others, are as follows:

A

B

C

D

F

G

H

B/1

B/3

B/6

H-B/1

H-B/3

H-B/6

That list may not seem too terrible, but there’s a reason that (to the best of my knowledge) this project has never been attempted before by a layperson. Reading MKULTRA documents is always irritating. No one does it for fun.

The ones I think we know for sure

Let’s start with the easy letters—the meanings for which I’m 99.9% certain:

A is the Agency itself. Anyone with an A next to his or her name is employed by the CIA. It’s written next to a lot of important job titles in the “To” and “From” lines of a CIA memo, and it’s often written next to an author’s name at the bottom of a CIA-composed letter. It’s written next to the names of CIA staffers whose identities have been revealed—people like Morse Allen and Robert Jay Williams. It’s this simple: if you have an A next to your name, you, my friend, are in the CIA.

B, I believe, stands for a Business or Organization that conducts the type of research in which the CIA was especially interested. And, in the early to mid-1950s, the type of research that the CIA’s ARTICHOKE program was especially interested in pertained to hypnosis and drugs. As you can see on the February 6, 1957, letter, an address at the top right is blacked out and marked with a B, which is likely Jolly West’s business address. 

Here’s a table in which the letter B clearly signifies a Research Organization, versus C, which stands for…

C stands for Consultant. Anyone with a C next to their blacked-out name is employed by another entity, likely a university or research organization. They may be partially supported by the CIA through a grant or contract or some other temporary means for their expertise, although not everyone with a C was paid. Some offered up their expert opinions free of charge. In the February 6 letter, ostensibly, Jolly West was considered a C, but his workplace was categorized as a B.

F is for Foreign. The letter F is used to signify a country whose name has been redacted, sometimes as a location to conduct ARTICHOKE experiments or perhaps to denote other related overseas travel or consultation.

Clever, right? Our friends at the CIA came up with alphabetical shorthand that uses the first letter of the word it represents. I don’t know if that will apply to all of the categories, but it’s a nice way to start. As you can probably imagine, the letters A and C are by far the most frequently ones used in the ARTICHOKE documents.

The tougher ones

The Bs and Hs gave me the biggest trouble, since they appeared alone as well as with numbers. I also knew that the three main branches of the military were heavily involved in ARTICHOKE, but I was having difficulty identifying which branch might be represented by a corresponding letter. I won’t bore you with why I thought this, but for a while, I thought the B might mean Navy, the H might mean Air Force, and the G might be the Army. But that system didn’t play out in the documents.

Just an example of a confusing document; click on image for a closer view

And then I started to think like the bean counters in the CIA. You know what? If they can lump all the research orgs together, and they can lump all the consultants together, and they can lump everyone in the CIA together, then they can certainly lump all of the people in uniform together. I’d concluded that the B/3s and B/6s were part of the military because of their “tour of duty” and war talk and their inclination to measure hours in a day by the hundreds. That’s when I determined that B/3 meant a military base and B/6 meant an officer who is affiliated with a military base. As for the H that precedes the B/3s or B/6s, I figured out what that meant when I read the following two paragraphs from page 5 of a lengthy document in which the writer was kvetching about how no one, particularly researchers affiliated with the military, ever briefed him on any of their ARTICHOKE-related activities. Here are the two most awesome grafs:

So, now we know, and I just want to thank the CIA categorizers for practically handing us the working definitions of an H-B/3 and an H-B/6. H-B/3 ostensibly refers to a hospital or clinic on a military base and an H-B/6 ostensibly refers to an officer, and most likely a medical specialist, who is affiliated with a military base that has a hospital or clinic on site. A hospital on a military site would be considered a huge plus in conducting ARTICHOKE research. You, as an ARTICHOKE researcher, would be among friends. You wouldn’t have to hide what you’re doing nearly as much as if you were in a non-military hospital. 

Aaaaand, guess what? Wright-Patterson Air Force Base had just completed a 314-bed, 7-floor, state-of-the-art hospital facility in June 1956. So, yeah, if psychologist St. Clair Switzer was still active in the Air Force Reserves in 1957, and he very much was, and he was known in the hallways of Wright Patterson AFB, and he no-doubt was, then an H-B/6 next to his name would be apropos. I’d think that having an H-B/6 next to your name would be one of the more glowing attributes in the eyes of Morse Allen, the recipient of (ostensibly) Jolly West’s letter.

The ones that could use more research

Before I get to the most exciting part of this post, here are the categories that I’m still stuck on. If anyone has an inkling to visit The Black Vault’s MKULTRA collection to find occurrences of the following and to help figure out their meaning, I’d be grateful:

D – The March 25, 1952, letter that (ostensibly) refers to Clark Hull, St. Clair Switzer, and Griffith Williams, the Rutgers professor and hypnosis expert who’d also worked under Clark Hull, is studded with handwritten letter Ds. Because Ds weren’t used very frequently in the MKULTRA documents I’ve examined, I haven’t yet figured out a pattern. Perhaps it indicates referrals for consideration, but I don’t know. I don’t think it stands for drugs, since neither Clark Hull nor Griffith Williams had expertise in that area.

G – I think G stands for an internal group within the CIA, such as the gadgetry group mentioned in this memo. (Good Lord, do you think it stands for Gadgetry?) A letter for various separate internal groups makes sense if we’re considering the perspective of an Agency accountant. If they need to expend money from a specific line item for a designated group within the Agency, then that would be an important distinction.

H – I’m most stymied by the letter H when used on its own, with no B/3s or B/6s nearby. At one point I thought it represented hypnosis, but I don’t think so. When I noticed the blurb about the pilots, that’s when I thought it might mean the Air Force. But that would be weird to have a special designation for the Air Force and not the other military branches, wouldn’t it?This one definitely needs to be investigated further. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

B/1 (H-B/1) – I haven’t seen enough of this designation to ascertain how it differs from the B/3 and B/6 designations, but I think it’s probably similar. I don’t think it matters for our purposes though.

The most exciting part: why I think St. Clair Switzer was on the CIA payroll

In my blog post about how St. Clair Switzer spent his 1956-57 sabbatical, including the summer of 1957, I introduced two letters that I believe were written from St. Clair Switzer to his former colleague under Clark Hull, Griffith Williams. In the letters, Switzer is hoping to obtain guidance from Williams, who was, by then, an internationally recognized expert in the field of hypnosis.

Let’s have another look at those letters with our newfound knowledge.

Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view

As you can see, any references to Williams have a C attached to them—in CIA lingo, he was considered a Consultant. But in the December 6, 1956, letter, references to West and Switzer were bestowed with As. They were considered Agency. Curiously enough, in the February 8, 1957, letter, West and Williams were designated as Cs, while the letter writer, whom I believe to be St. Clair Switzer, was an A-lister once again.

You may ask: are you sure that it was Switzer who wrote the two letters? Couldn’t it have been Morse Allen? I honestly don’t think so. First, the letters aren’t written in Allen’s style. Allen wasn’t an academic. The two letters were written by someone who clearly was. His words, “We grant that the above list is long and that any item individually could well deserve a Ph.D thesis,” tells me that the writer held his own doctorate degree, and he was acknowledging that the recipient did as well. He’s comfortably collegiate. In addition, the letter writer is gracious and deferential, both to the recipient, who is unquestionably Williams, but also to the researcher with whom the writer is working. He uses the term “we” quite a bit. Morse Allen worked alone. There was no “we” when he wrote his letters and memos about ARTICHOKE. From what I’ve read, Morse Allen didn’t do gracious. Switzer was no sweetheart either, but he knew how to write as if he were.

If St. Clair Switzer was the letter writer, and I continue to believe that he was, then he wasn’t a wannabe sitting on the sidelines. Switzer was CIA, at least for part of his career. That’s big. I also think he was running in those circles for quite a while.

******

P.S.: This post came to be because of one person’s recent email asking a question about Lackland Air Force Base. His question led me back to the MKULTRA documents, which was when I started fixating on the H-B/6 notation. I’m not sure I would have tried to figure out its meaning without that email. So…thank you…to all of you, for your input. You really do contribute to this process and influence my thinking in new ways.

******

** Late in the process, I noticed a faint S at the top of several documents, and on one document to date, several Js and Es. These are the exceptions to the rule. I’m going to ignore them for this blog post, since they don’t pertain to the question at hand, but I acknowledge their existence. If you can figure out what in the heck they mean, let me know!

On the extraordinarily, mind-bogglingly stupendous value of editors…and how they just may help us find the interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary

Do we have any editors in the crowd? If so, I’ll bet you’d like to take a whack at that title right about now, wouldn’t you?  Any adherents to William Strunk and E.B. White’s little gem of a book on writing and editing, The Elements of Style, can see that I’ve gone way over the limit on adverbs and adjectives. But I’m sorry…I mean this and I’m ready to break some rules to say so: editors are the bomb.

So, let’s see, let’s see…where were we? The last time we chatted, I was promising not to bother you with any more talk about the interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary unless something really big happened. Well, “really big” happens to be a really subjective phrase. What may seem like a nothing burger to some people can actually be steak tartare to the rest of us. (Or at least to the meat eaters in the crowd.) What’s more, the true appeal of what I’m about to impart to you is that this very big thing has been staring in all of our faces for months and months (and months). (Sorry, Bill and E.B., but I feel the situation calls for a little redundancy as well.)

Allow me to cut to the chase. You know those two hockey tapes that I’ve been in a legal battle over that just ended? The ones that were both in very bad shape, with the second one being totally unwatchable?

What’s that word in parentheses on both tapes?

EDIT.

Edit?

EDIT!

Right. So here’s the thing about the Oral History Project tapes: the folks who converted those tapes to DVDs were IT sorts of people.

They weren’t the content developer types.

It’s my understanding that, for the most part, the Oral History Project recordings weren’t edited—certainly not like the Broadcast News clip in the above link. But issues can and do happen—glitchy little tape problems or inaccuracies with the opening or closing credits or perhaps some issue that an interviewee had with what he or she said on a particular day.

I will venture to say that, on those rare occasions in which an edit or correction needed to be made to an Oral History Project recording, they weren’t made unless those edits or corrections were requested by a coordinator and/or program associate from the Oral History Project.

And the coordinators and program associates from the Oral History Project would have requested the edits after viewing the recording.

To the best of my knowledge, the Oral History Project folks had two ways of viewing the recording: as raw video footage through the viewfinder of their digital camcorder or as a completed DVD on their computers. Generally, they wouldn’t have viewed the recording until after it had been converted to DVD.

Do you see where I’m going with this? I’m saying that the presence of two edited hockey tapes is a strong indication that a DVD had indeed been made of the Miami hockey coaches. It also leads me to pose this question once more: why did Miami University officials send me damaged hockey recordings if there was a perfectly good unedited DVD lying around?

You may be thinking: that’s interesting, but how do we know if the DVD has anything to do with the interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary?

We don’t. But I subscribe to the saying that where there’s smoke, there’s generally fire. For me, if we can get past the smokescreens, we can find the answer.

Fortunately for us, we may be able to cut through the smokescreens soon. This past June, when several of us spent two days in University Archives trying to locate the Oral History Project recordings that weren’t posted to the bicentennial website, I was working from an Excel sheet of over 2000 recordings—many untitled—that university officials had sent me several months earlier. It was practically useless.

Practically. But now, it’s taken on new meaning.

Because after all of the waiting we’d done for “Hockey Tape #2 (Edit),” which has turned out to be utterly destroyed and impossible to watch (a nothing burger, if you will), I see that there’s another Miami Hockey Tape #2—one of the unedited variety, sitting in the same box as the edited tape, which is box number CDS 18 (hello, steak tartare!).

Obviously, university officials have access to the same Excel sheet I have. Why didn’t they send me that tape, the one occupying line 1718, instead of going to all of the trouble of securing a vendor and paying hundreds of dollars to attempt to repair the edited but unusable tape residing on line 1716?

I’ll just let that question hang there until we get a chance to view the unedited tape, which I requested this morning.

Wishing you a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, and Happy Kwanzaa. Also, Happy New Year—which, on April 19, will mark 70 years since Ron Tammen disappeared.

Also, be sure to try out the new comments box, where you can easily (I think) upload photos of your pets having fun this holiday season!

FAILURE! My wild ride through the Ohio Court of Claims has come to an end

Hello! I’m writing this blog post to let you know that my quasi lawsuit through the Ohio Court of Claims has officially ended with a sputter and a sad little splat. The university has finally produced Hockey Tape #2—sort of. It’s definitely in worse shape than Hockey Tape #1, since it’s only a few choppy images of Miami’s three hockey coaches with no sound. BUT, as I’d told the university’s lawyer during mediation, once they produced both recordings, I would voluntarily dismiss my complaint, and that’s what I ended up doing yesterday evening. Because I’m a woman of my word. And the last time I checked, that’s still a good thing.

It’s been a maddening couple of days in which I’ve been struggling with, in my view, the least user-friendly, nay, the most user-unfriendly computer platform I’ve ever experienced. (Note to Ohio Court of Claims: why do you even have a box for “Comments to Court” if no one from said court ostensibly reads the contents of said box? And why even have a box for “Client Reference Number” when no one seems to know what that is?”)

After the university’s lawyer submitted his motion for the court to dismiss my complaint on Wednesday afternoon, I only had a short window of time in which to submit my affidavit, which I’d been working on for days. 

I submitted that affidavit over….and over….and over, only to receive a “FAILURE” message hours later. My failures ranged from attaching PDFs (Exhibits A-E) that weren’t PDF-y enough, using the “Comments to Court” box to write my comments to the court, and sending my affidavit as a PDF document that had inactive URL addresses that were visible to the eye. The mere presence of an “http” would set that thing off.

Just as I was on my…let’s see…2nd day and 4th try, I think, that’s when the university’s Office of General Counsel sent me those raggedy, soundless images. Brilliant.

There was simply no freaking way that I was going to voluntarily dismiss my complaint without sending in my side of things first. I uploaded my affidavit as a document (Note to Ohio Court of Claims: why don’t you just say outright that the affidavit must be sent as a document, or in your vernacular: Filing, instead of having that confusing “Comments to Court” box?), and clicked on the option to “withdraw” my complaint. I knew I was sending them a mixed message but I didn’t care. I also didn’t know the difference between withdrawing a complaint and voluntarily dismissing a complaint, but I suppose I didn’t care about that either. (I still don’t.)

Some merciful soul accepted my affidavit this time (perhaps out of pity, having seen all of my failed attempts) and they added in the notes that I’d need to submit a form in which I voluntarily dismissed the complaint, which I did.

Here’s my affidavit. And here are my attachments, which you’ve no doubt seen before.

So, I guess this little skirmish has come to an end. I hadn’t planned to write a blog post about it, since it isn’t a big revelation. But I noticed a spike in visits yesterday, so it seems as though at least a few of you are interested in what I might have to say.

I have to say this: I still think that the university archivist had assigned number 10F-4-129 to an Oral History Project DVD and I’m still going to try to find it. I promise to do so quietly unless I discover something big.

Happy Friday to all who celebrate.

Ron Tammen had two missing person file numbers

One was assigned in 1953; the other was assigned in 1973

There’s something incredibly embarrassing about blogging investigative research in real time, and that incredibly embarrassing something is this: with each new discovery, my earlier hypotheses will continue to be accessible to all until the internet ceases to be. And that means that all my mistakes, oversights, and rushes to judgment are posted in full-frontal view and there’s not a thing I can do about it.

Today I’d like to talk about Ron Tammen’s missing person number…or, rather, his missing person numbers…as in with an ‘s’…as in very, very plural.

I honestly cannot believe I missed this earlier.

Because I have a couple other deadlines to worry about, I need to write this up fast. Let’s do it as a quick Q&A:

Wow! Are you sure?

Pretty darned sure—sure enough to sit down and write this blog post when, as I said, I have some other stuff I need to get to tonight.

Remind us: which one is Ron’s missing person number…or numbers?

As you may recall, all FBI files begin with a classification number, from 1 to 281, and all missing person cases begin with the number 79. And the 79 number that’s written all over Ron’s FBI documents is 79-31966. That’s the one I’ve been reporting since Day 1.

Recently, I was going over his FBI documents again and I was focusing on the report written by the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Cleveland field office after receiving a phone call from Marjorie Tammen. At the top of page 1, written in small, neat penmanship,  under the words “ATT: IDENTIFICATION DIVISION” is this:

MP# 17699

Posted

6-2-53 Jh

Although I’m not 100 percent sure of the last two letters—I think they’re “Jh”—the number is unmistakable. The 79 has been left off—because why not? All missing person numbers begin with 79. The most important part of the number is 17699.

The top of the first page of the report from the Cleveland field office to the Identification Division with Ron’s first missing person number. Click on image for the full two-page report.

Are you sure that wasn’t the missing person number that Cleveland had assigned to him?

You’re correct that field offices would assign their own case numbers, but no, it’s not theirs. I know this because at the top of the memo in parentheses after the words “SAC, Cleveland” is the number 79-0-615 B. In Cleveland, they’d placed Ron’s file in their 0 file, which means that it was placed in the front of the missing person cases because it was a stand-alone report. There was nothing else available on Ron to warrant creating its own folder. Therefore, in Cleveland, Ron’s report was the 615th report in their missing person 0 file. (The “B” probably represents a subcategory of some sort.)

On June 2, 1953, when the FBI’s Identification Division received the report, they listed his case as MP# 17699— obviously, undoubtedly, and most assuredly under classification 79.

Your headline says that one missing person number was assigned in 1953 and the other was assigned in 1973. How did you figure that out?

Remember my July 4, 2022, post where I told you about a box of FBI missing person records that are now housed in the National Archives? I’d submitted a public records request to view those records as soon as they became available. Recently, they wrote to me with the names, dates, and case numbers of the people who are in that file, along with an estimate of the time it would take (they’re still processing orders from February 2014!) and dollars it would cost me ($760!) in order to view them all.

It’s a smattering of missing persons cases, comparatively. In the 1993 book “Unlocking the Files of the FBI,” by Gerald K. Haines and David A. Langbart, the authors stated that the FBI had on its books roughly 20,000 missing person cases in 1980. The number of case files in this box is 87, which is 0.4 percent of the total. None of the people we’ve come to know are in the box: no Ron, no Richard Cox, and not the two people I spoke of in my July 4 post—Charles McCullar, a 19-year-old man who disappeared in January 1975, or Dennis Martin, age 6, who disappeared in June 1969.

However, I started noticing how Ron’s, and Richard’s, and Charles’, and Dennis’ case numbers fit in with the rest of the people listed there. And the numbering system seems kind of chronological. 

Oh, that’s good. 

Yeah, well, hold on—it’s not perfect. God forbid that a numbering system should ever be perfectly chronological. But you can see patterns regarding when they assigned people’s numbers, including Ron’s two numbers. And I think it gives us a clue as to why they gave him the second number.

What sorts of patterns?

Included below is the table that NARA sent to me with the names of the people I plan to seek records on highlighted in yellow.

Click on image for a better view.
Click on image for a better view.

As you can see, the case numbers are listed in numerical order, and they’re also generally listed in chronological order. That means that the lower numbers are generally indicative of the older cases, which began in the 1930s (John Kallapure’s case is likely a typo and should probably read 12/36 instead of 12/16) and the higher numbers are of the more recent cases, which end in 1980.  But there are distinct outliers, like Willie McNeal Love and Edward Theodore Myers.

When we insert the case numbers of our four missing persons into the table, here’s what happens:

Ronald Tammen #1: 79-17699

Missing 4/19/53; posted 6/2/53

Ron’s number 79-17699 is a little out of chronological order with his neighbors, and it’s weird that his number precedes those of people who went missing in the late 1940s and early 50s, including Richard Cox. Nevertheless, he’s still relatively in the ballpark of the year in which he disappeared.


Ronald Tammen #2: 79-31966

Date of Cincinnati report seeking comparison of Ron’s fingerprints: 5/9/73

Ron’s missing person number that’s written all over his FBI documents is 79-31966. This number appears where you’d predict him to be in the FBI’s ordering system, between Don L. Ray, who went missing in 12/72, and Ronnie D. York, who disappeared in 1/75. Ron’s number is only 7 digits higher than Mr. Ray’s, so it’s logical to conclude that he received it in 1973. Furthermore, it’s written on documents that are dated May 1973, shortly after the Cincinnati field office had sent a man’s fingerprints to FBI Headquarters to compare them to Tammen’s prints.

Richard Cox: 79-23729

Missing 1/14/50; posted 2/8/50

Richard Cox’s number 70-23729 is in the spot you’d expect him to be, between William H. Doyle, who went missing in 2/49, and George E. Robinson, who went missing in 12/50.

Dennis Martin: 79-31142

Missing 6/14/69

Dennis Martin’s missing person number is slightly out of order, between Melanie Ray, who went missing in 7/69, and Rosemary Calandriello, who went missing in 8/69. But it’s very close, and the discrepancy probably has to do with when his missing person notice was posted in comparison to the two women’s notices. Because there is so much written on Martin, I’m unable to tell when his number was officially assigned.

Charles McCullar: 79-32359

Missing 1/30/75; date in which the FBI was contacted 3/25/76

Although Charles McCullar disappeared in January of 1975, the FBI was first contacted regarding his disappearance on March 25, 1976. For this reason, his missing person number is exactly where you’d expect it to be—between Linda L. Dow, who went missing in 3/76, and Richard W. Miller, who went missing in 5/76.

What do you think this means?

Honestly? I think that sometime between June 2, 1953, and May 9, 1973, Ron’s original missing person number, number 79-17699, was retired. When the Cincinnati field office sent in the fingerprints of the man from Welco Industries, asking the Identification Division to compare them to Tammen’s, I think the folks in Ident were a little stymied. 

Here’s my imagined reenactment:

Employee #1: Um, Cincinnati is asking us to compare these fingerprints to a college guy from Ohio who’s supposedly still missing. But I’m not finding his missing person number filed anywhere. It’s like…gone or something.

Employee #2: That’s really weird. What do you think we should do?

Emp #1: Can we give him a new missing person number?

Emp #2: Brilliant! 

And so, sometime in the vicinity of May 22, 1973, I believe the FBI assigned Ron Tammen his new number, 79-31966. As we all know, shortly thereafter, on June 5, 1973, there was a lot more activity in Ron’s missing person case, as his documents were “Removed from Ident files.” After that, however, all activity on his missing person case ended.

Is there anything else we can learn from this?

I think this helps explain why the number 79-31966 is written in the same exact handwriting on all of Ron’s documents, even the earlier ones. I think the person who wrote “Removed from Ident files” also wrote his new missing person number on those documents in 1973.

It could also explain why the Cincinnati field office used Ron’s Selective Service violation case number (25-381754) to identify him as opposed to his missing person number, even though his Selective Service case had been canceled in 1955. I don’t think they could find Ron’s missing person number.

Oh, and this: I guess by now you know that I don’t think Ron was still considered missing by the FBI in 1973. What this new information tells me is that I think at least some individuals at the Bureau had indeed figured it out before the Cincinnati field office had sent in the Welco employee’s fingerprints. And I also think there’s a good chance that J. Edgar Hoover, who died in 1972, knew a lot more about Ron’s case when he was at the helm, even as he continued exchanging letters with Ron’s tortured mother and father. Granted, it’s just a theory.

Here’s the link to Ron’s FBI FOIA documents if you’d like to examine my theory further.

The hockey coach tape was produced for the Miami Stories Oral History Project. So why did so many people act so bizarrely as soon as I started sniffing around?

Oh, you guys. I’m tired, bummed, and as emotionally banged-up as a Miami Hockey Coach tape.

Long story short: the university sent me the opening 10 minutes of the hockey coach tape, and in the first few seconds, Miami broadcaster Steve Baker states very clearly that the interview was made for the Miami Stories Oral History Project. So there ‘ya have it. Question answered. 

As you can imagine, I have unresolved questions, mostly of the “why” variety. Because of the university’s weirdly evasive actions and non-responses to my questions concerning Carl Knox’s former secretary and the unposted recordings of the Oral History Project, I’ve been burrowing in this rabbit hole for nearly 2 years of my life (and yours). Because of their foot dragging during my Ohio Court of Claims complaint, I’m several thousand dollars poorer. I mean seriously…why?

The remainder of this blog will be devoted to some of the overriding questions that I’d like to pose to university officials. If you happen to be a university official and you’d like to offer up an answer or two, the comment box is now open!

For the rest of you, I’m really sorry, but I need to vent. Some of these issues you already know about. Others will be new to you. I’m pretty sure I’m in safe territory as far as the mediation is concerned, but as long as it’s true and I have documentation to prove it, I’m going there.

Of course, you’re all welcome to comment too!

Please be assured that, after today, unless we make an extraordinarily newsworthy discovery, I’ll spare you any more blog posts regarding the Miami Stories Oral History Project, Carl Knox’s former secretary, or the three stellar gentlemen we’ve come to know as the Miami Hockey Coaches. 

Here we go!

****************

Dear Miami University,

Can someone please tell me:

Why did the Office of General Counsel wait until June 2022 to inform me about the three boxes of Oral History Project documents sitting in University Archives, when I’d explicitly asked for those records through a public records request In April 2021? Why did they send 11 random electronic documents instead of pointing me to the three boxes which held exactly the types of documents I was requesting?

When I asked people affiliated with the Oral History Project if Carl Knox’s secretary was one of the three unposted recordings mentioned in an interim progress report, why didn’t they answer the question? Instead, they either said something like “I didn’t interview her,” or they flat-out ghosted me.

When I asked the same people which recordings weren’t posted online, why could no one remember a single example? Why couldn’t anyone at least recall the very sad day when the Miami Hockey Coaches tape was damaged so severely that they wouldn’t be able to use the recording?

Why did the OGC feel the need to pull the hockey coaches’ consent forms from their folder in University Archives shortly before I arrived on October 3 to look through those same consent forms? 

What’s more, why did the university wait until that same day, Monday, October 3, to send the mangled “Hockey Tape #2 (Edit)” to be repaired when—let’s see, how do I put this?—I’d thought that they’d already done so weeks earlier? (The tape is still being repaired.) 

Also, when I told the OGC rep about the missing consent forms, why did she claim that I hadn’t told anyone “in person,” otherwise someone would have helped me? Of course I’d told someone in person. Why did she also say that they’d placed the consent forms with the “good” hockey tape “while we wait for the other hockey tape to be repaired,” as if they’d been waiting around for the second tape, as opposed to sending it in that same day? Seriously, what was that about? 

How were university staff able to find the missing hockey coaches interview tape? According to university officials, it hasn’t been entered into ArchivesSpace, and it supposedly hasn’t been given an archive number or accessions number. Seriously, how’d they find it?

If the hockey coaches recording was destroyed as early in the process as the university claims, why didn’t they save the audio backup recording? Public universities, as a rule, are cost-conscious. I’d think they would’ve tried to salvage something from their efforts. They could have at least posted the audio online.

Why on October 13 did the OGC send me a recording of the Miami Hockey Coaches that was missing the first 5 minutes? That oversight makes no sense, especially since we now know that the Miami Stories Oral History Project is mentioned in those 5 minutes.

And finally this: why was a tape titled “Return to Steve” made available to one AGMIHTF researcher during her visit to University Archives earlier this month, yet, when I asked for the tape again for another researcher, OGC stepped in to say that “Return to Steve” is a mini DV cleaner tape, it’s not a public record, and the second researcher can’t have it? Why would a lawyer need to step in to tell me that it was a cleaner tape? Couldn’t an archivist have done that? 

I’ll stop there, though I’m also a little curious who Steve is.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I wish the news had been better, but, as you longtime followers know, it’s all part of the journey.

And now, please enjoy some photos of my boy Herbie, who’s currently on his annual Thanksgiving excursion to his uncles’ apartment in NYC. Tonight we’re staying in a hotel. Herbie loves hotels.

In honor of gaps and holes: how missing numbers and deleted video footage can provide clues to an interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary

On May 1, 2009, roughly two weeks before the hockey coach tape was recorded, the folks in Digital Initiatives were all caught up. Every single recording that had been sent to them thus far, right up to the Stewards of Campus Grounds and Natural Areas, recorded on April 14, had been converted to DVD. That had to feel good, since they’d been running behind throughout the project, and were now heading into the home stretch. The Miami Stories Oral History Project would be pretty much in the rearview mirror at the close of Alumni Weekend in June. 

Of course, more tapes would soon be on the way. On April 29, 2009, three renowned marching band directors had been interviewed, and on May 6, their recording was sent to D.I. (shorthand for Digital Initiatives) to be converted to DVD. The hockey coach tape was the very next recording that was made after the marching band directors and, one day later, the former mayor and police chief of Oxford would be interviewed. So that was the immediate line-up: first the marching band directors, then the hockey coaches, and then the Oxford city officials. (One other recording—that of Marjorie Miller Donovan—had been made the week before the marching band directors, but for some reason her tape was held back from D.I. for a little while longer. We’ll talk about her recording on another day because it offers some interesting clues regarding my current theory about what happened to an interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary.)

As we’ve discussed in earlier posts, once a videotape was converted to DVD, staff members representing the Oral History Project would review the disc for defects and then hand it off to the university archivist, who would assign an archive number. So if the marching band directors were assigned number 10F-4-128 and the Oxford officials were assigned 10F-4-130, what number do you think the archivist would have assigned the tape that was recorded smack dab in between? I’d put my money on 129, right? 

But that’s probably not exactly how things happened. Because that’s not how people generally do their jobs. When an archivist is busy archiving, that person isn’t likely to drop whatever they’re doing to assign a number to a DVD as soon as it lands in their inbox. I can imagine them waiting until at least several DVDs have accumulated—maybe saving that task for a Friday afternoon as a way to ease into the weekend. And if you, the archivist, are assigning numbers to DVDs that are in a pile or box, then the order in which you number those DVDs probably isn’t that crucial. There will be chronological sequences for sure, but not every interview will be numbered in the exact order in which it happened. 

Likewise, as in Marjorie Donovan’s case, tapes weren’t necessarily sent to D.I. in chronological order either. What’s more, the folks in D.I. had been experiencing logjams with incoming tapes, especially at the beginning. I’m sure they weren’t all that concerned if one tape jumped ahead in line before a tape that had been recorded earlier. On January 22, 2008, the university archivist was handed 22 DVDs to number. So yeah…the numbering process was more chronological-ish, especially at the beginning.

Recently, I shared with you my conclusion that the Miami Hockey Coaches recording had to have been assigned number 10F-4-129, which meant that it had to have been made into a DVD. I still feel that way. My logic is that, because the archivist had assigned the Oxford officials’ recording number 130, he had to have assigned the number 129 to the immediately preceding recording, which couldn’t have been anyone other than the hockey coaches. He wouldn’t purposely jump from 128 to 130 with no 129, would he? I mean, what’s the sense in having numbers if you’re not going to follow their, um, numericalness? Do numbers not count for anything? 

And so I submitted a public records request for the DVD labeled 10F-4-129, no matter who was on it. If it was the hockey coaches, that would be really interesting because I’d then want to know why the university has been sending me beat-up tapes when they had a perfectly good DVD. If it turned out to be someone other than the hockey coaches on the DVD, that would be interesting too. (Oh, who am I kidding? That would have been way better. Sorry, hockey coaches, but my hope is that Carl Knox’s former secretary is on that DVD, even if she happens to be sharing it with three or four others.)

The university responded last week. Here’s what Aimee Smart, in the Office of General Counsel, had to say:

“We do not have a responsive document as Archive Space [sic] does not have an entry for 10F-4-129. As a courtesy we have provided you with access to a google drive folder that contains screen shots of our system which shows that the numbers skip.”

Well, thanks, but I already knew that the numbers skip. I could see on the Special Collections web page that the numbers skip. I wrote a blog post about how the numbers skip.

Let’s think about the whole question of ‘skipped numbers’ a little more. Generally, the numbers were assigned more or less chronologically, but sometimes, as mentioned above, they were out of order and occasionally they did skip, especially at the beginning of the project. And when I say that the numbers occasionally skipped, I’m referring to both numbering systems: the accession numbers, which were assigned to a videotape by the computer Athena before the tape was hand carried to D.I., and the archive numbers, which were assigned to the DVDs by the archivist after they were returned from D.I. As far as why the numbers skipped a lot at the beginning, I have no idea. I don’t know how Athena assigned her numbers at the start but maybe the archivist was saving a place for tapes once they were returned, but then changed his mind? Maybe he…no, I got nothing. I don’t know why the numbers skipped so much, especially at the beginning.

So the argument the university is offering up is: There is no number 10F-4-129 in our records, therefore there is no DVD. No ArchivesSpace entry, no DVD. Capiche?

Oh, I capiche all right. But my counterpoint is that, to the best of my knowledge, an archive number was assigned to a DVD before it was entered into ArchivesSpace, and a DVD that wasn’t entered into the ArchivesSpace system could still be sitting in a box somewhere. Comprendez?

Look, I get it. They say that there can’t be a DVD if there’s no archive number and I say that there is most definitely an archive number—not to mention an accession number—so there has to be a DVD. We’ve found ourselves in a circular standoff.

But I’ve looked at both series of numbers every which way and there are distinct patterns—patterns that (imo) support my conclusion that there is a DVD floating around somewhere, hopefully with the number 10F-4-129 written in black marker on its front label. 

Let’s begin with the accession numbers that were assigned by Athena:

  • The last time an accession number was skipped prior to the taping of the hockey coaches happened rather coincidentally on May 19, 2008, exactly one year to the day before the Miami Hockey Coaches recording. Every tape after that date up to May 19, 2009, had been assigned an accession number and was passed along to Digital Initiatives. With the exception of accession number msv00110, which was ostensibly skipped, the same can be said for every tape after May 19, 2009, until the end of the Oral History Project.
  • The timing in which accession number msv00110 would have been assigned to a tape coincides perfectly with the date of the Miami Hockey Coaches recording.
  • If Digital Initiatives received the Miami Hockey Coaches tape, then the Miami Hockey Coaches tape must have been given an accession number. And there is no other possible accession number for the Miami Hockey Coaches tape than msv00110.

As for the university archivist’s archive numbers:

  • The archive numbers indeed skipped at times. In several cases, multiple numbers in a row were skipped. But this practice dropped substantially by the end of 2008. Throughout the entire Oral History Project, there were 31 skipped archive numbers, including (ostensibly) 10F-4-129. Twenty-seven skips occurred before November 2008, and most occurred well before then. 
  • The last time an archive number was skipped before the taping of the hockey coaches occurred on March 26, 2009. The skipped number was 10F-4-116. The next skipped archive number (ostensibly) was 10F-4-129, which coincides perfectly with accession number msv00110 and, therefore, the timing of the hockey coaches recording on May 19, 2009. 
  • After 10F-4-129, there were no more skipped archive numbers. If 10F-4-129 is indeed the same recording as accession number msv00110 (and therefore, the hockey coaches), then there were no skips from March 26, 2009, through the remainder of the Oral History Project. Put another way, at the time that the hockey coaches recording was made, all possible accession numbers and all possible archive numbers were being assigned. There were no additional skips.

Screenshot from a comparison of accession numbers to archive numbers. Numbers in brackets indicate skips. Click on image to see the entire document.

It’s one thing for a skip in numbering to occur on its own, be it a skipped accession number or a skipped archive number. But for a skip in an archive number to coincide with a skip in an accession number at the very same time in which a tape has supposedly entered the queue at Digital Initiatives…that’s very different. It tells me that the tape had indeed entered the system and was converted to a DVD but the DVD, if it still exists, is not where it should normally be.

Picture it sort of like this: You know the classic I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel are working at a candy factory? Their job is to wrap each chocolate as they come through on the conveyor belt. But then things go haywire. The candy starts coming in too fast, and they start missing pieces until, eventually, they start popping as many chocolates as they can into their mouths, not to mention shoving them into their hats and down their shirts. (I just watched it again and Lucy’s face at the end still makes me laugh cry.) 

Let’s say that each one of the unwrapped chocolates entering the conveyor belt was stamped with an incoming “candy” number (similar to a videotape’s accession number) and each one of the wrapped chocolates on its way out had another number on its wrapper (like the DVD’s archive number). Let’s also pretend that you and I are inspectors. My job is to monitor the candy and wrapper numbers at the head of the line and your job is to write down the wrapper number that corresponds to its candy number at the end. (Your job is way harder, but you’re extremely good at what you do.) 

If you see candy coming down the belt without a wrapper, that’s one that got by Lucy and Ethel. Those are the fails, which, in our analogy, would represent a videotape that entered Digital Initiatives but wasn’t made into a DVD. They’d have a candy (accession) number but no wrapper (archive) number.

If, on the other hand, a bunch of the candy winds up in Lucy’s and Ethel’s mouths, then you’ll begin to notice skips preceding the candy numbers that were successfully wrapped. So candy number msv00010 may be united with wrapper number 10F-4-15, but there are no signs of candy numbers msv00001-msv00009 on your inspection sheet. Likewise, if Lucy or Ethel accidentally knocked a wrapper or two or ten on the floor, then you’ll notice some skips with those numbers as well.

Still with me? 

But what if a chocolate is making its way down the conveyor belt, and Lucy wraps it, but the candy and its wrapper never show up at your end? My records show that they were both in line for processing at roughly the same time and that both seemed to make it past Lucy. As far as your inspection sheet goes, both the candy number (msv00110) and wrapper number (10F-4-129) appear to have been skipped at roughly the same time. But another possibility is that, in a moment of panic, Ethel may have grabbed one of the wrapped chocolates and stuffed it into her hat.

When Aimee Smart from Miami’s Office of General Counsel informed me that University Archives doesn’t have a DVD numbered 10F-4-129 because that number isn’t listed in ArchivesSpace, I asked missing-person expert and budding investigator Kira Pierson to pay a visit and have a look at the original tape that they’d sent me of the Miami Hockey Coaches. I wanted to know what the tape looked like physically. Specifically, I wanted to know how they’d even found it if they had no identifying numbers to go by, as they’ve asserted. Supposedly, they couldn’t even look for accession number msv00110, which I’d think would have been helpful. I also asked her to watch at least part of the tape if she had the time. Thankfully, she did have the time. Also thankfully, she recorded several video clips on her phone, which showed the five extra minutes of introductory material that university representatives had decided to leave off of my digitized version.

Cover to the Miami Hockey Coaches tape with no identifying numbers.

On Friday at 1:30 p.m., I’ll be calling in to the final mediation meeting. Other attendees will be representatives of Miami’s Office of General Counsel, Miami’s Ohio-taxpayer-funded lawyer, my me-funded lawyer, and the mediator from the Ohio Court of Claims. In addition to the questions that I plan to ask Miami’s OGC, I plan to thank them. No, seriously. Because if the university had been cooperative at the beginning of this complaint—if at the get-go they’d provided to me the three recordings that hadn’t been posted to the bicentennial website “for miscellaneous reasons,” as described in an interim progress report, we might have never arrived where we are. Ironically, it’s because of their, um, less-than-forthcoming words and actions that I believe we’re much closer to understanding what happened to the interview of Carl Knox’s former secretary.

Miami U officials sent me a hockey coach recording in which the first 5 minutes had been cut

That’s it. That’s the blog post.

Oh, nah, I guess I’ll say a little more. 

Remember the tape of the hockey coaches that I wrote about a month ago—the one that Miami officials referred to as the “good tape,” when in fact the quality was very bad?

I’ve come to learn that the recording that they digitized and shared with me via Google Drive was a little bit shorter than the original version they had. 

This new information comes to us courtesy of Kira Pierson, a friend of the AGMIHTF family who started the inspiringly successful Facebook page Butler County Ohio Missing, now Ohio Valley Missing, and who did some super sleuthing for me yesterday. During her visit to University Archives, Kira watched the original tape as it played on a monitor and took some video clips of it.

The tape was essentially the same as the one on my Google Drive, except the version that Kira watched had about 5 extra minutes at the beginning. In the new part, Miami broadcaster Steve Baker introduces former coaches Steve Cady and William Davidge and then-head-coach Enrico Blasi to listeners and lets folks know what the topic of discussion would be, which was the history of Miami’s hockey program.

Although background noise in the clip interferes with the sound at some points, I was able to decipher enough words to understand that these 5 minutes seem important. First, there doesn’t appear to be a reference to Miami’s Oral History Project. It sounds more like a radio program. In his opening remarks, Baker says “for the next hour or so, you’re going to hear all about Miami University hockey…” which is odd, since the recording I received runs the full 90 minutes. Some of that is in slo-mo, but, um….? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’ll be listening to the damaged tape again and actually timing it while listening. In addition, I’ve submitted a public records request for the missing 5 minutes.

Here’s what I don’t get: University officials had discovered the good tape sometime around September 14, but didn’t share the digitized version with me until October 13. You’d think that that would have been enough time for them to check, then double-check, and maybe even triple-check to make sure the tape they were sending me—the one that was being negotiated through their lawyer and my lawyer in front of a lawyer representing the Ohio Court of Claims office—was the entire tape.

The ‘Miami Hockey Coaches’ interview was made into a perfectly good, perfectly wonderful DVD. So why does the university keep sending me damaged tapes?

Oh. My. Gosh. You guys? Can someone please call the naysayers back in? I’m excited, I think you’re going to be excited, and I think they’re going to be excited too.

You know how the graphic I created on my latest post showed that if an archive number was assigned to an Oral History Project recording, then that recording had definitely been made into a DVD? What’s more, the archive number was assigned by the university archivist AFTER the DVD had been pronounced good and great and free of glitches? It was deemed to be a perfectly good and wonderful and awesome DVD.

WELL. 

As I said in my latest post, I’d recently submitted a public records request for the screenshots for accession number msv00110 in ArchivesSpace, a tracking database used by University Archives, hoping to find out if that number was linked to the tape that I’d surmised was the hockey coaches. Today, I was told that the university doesn’t use the msv numbers for its tracking on ArchivesSpace. 

OK, fine. Whatever.

That’s when I started searching the only other numbers I knew—the archive numbers, which, as I’ve just described here and in other posts, are the numbers that were assigned to DVDs.

The archive number that I deduced must have been assigned to the hockey coach tape was 10F-4-129 because it coincided with the timing in which the hockey coach interview had occurred and the number was missing in the archive numbers posted online for the Oral History Project. 

Think of that for a second: The archive number 10F-4-129 had been assigned to a perfectly good and wonderful DVD by the university archivist, but the title wasn’t listed anywhere online.

If you go to the Special Collections ArchivesSpace page and type 10F-4-129 in quotation marks, nothing will come up. We knew that would happen. But if you type in 10F-4-128 (again in quotes), do you know who pops up? The Marching Band Directors. (You need to click on the “Miami Stories Oral” link and do a command search for the number.) And if you type in 10F-4-130, up pop the Village of Oxford Mayor and Chief of Police. Those two titles probably sound familiar to you since we’ve discussed them before.

According to the latest version of the Progress Log that I have, when the Miami hockey coaches were interviewed on May 19, 2009, the only other interview that was being converted into a DVD at that time were the Marching Band Directors, whose tape had been sent to Digital Initiatives on May 6, 2009. Nearly all other preceding interviews had been converted to DVD and given an archive number by then. The day after the hockey coach interview—May 20, 2009—the Village of Oxford leaders were interviewed. So, again, the archive number for the Marching Band Directors is 10F-4-128 and the archive number for the Oxford officials is 10F-4-130. All of the other numbers after 10F-4-130 are taken by the other interviews, most of which happened after May 20. The Miami Hockey Coaches archive number has to be 10F-4-129, which means that it was made into a good and wonderful and glitch-free DVD. 

So again I ask, why is the university sending me beat-up tapes if there was a perfectly good DVD made? 

It makes me wonder what was actually on that DVD.

I think the hockey coach tape had been successfully converted to DVD…

(and why that matters)

Hi there! Let me open by saying that this post is for all you folks who are willing to go the distance with me, even if you’re not sure where we’re heading, even if you’re really, really tired of hearing about hockey coach tapes. I appreciate you all so much. For the several others who are 100% done with hockey and wish that I would get back to serving up red meat on Ron Tammen, please feel free to grab your things and go. I won’t be offended. Also, while I genuinely enjoy reading people’s comments, please note that I will no longer be approving comments from the naysayers on this matter, including “cynics, complainers, defeatists, downers, killjoys, misanthropes, sourpusses, gloomies, party poopers, and wet blankets.” Those comments don’t really help and they tend to ruin my day.

Besides, I think a girl who’s investigating what could potentially be a 70-year-long cover-up should be allowed to ask a few follow-ups now and again. No one said that this was going to be a stroll through the begonias.

What I’d like to discuss with you is why the Miami Hockey Coaches recording, which we now know for a fact exists, has me turning my rumply-coated, cigar-chomping self around seeking “just one more thing” before I hop in my jalopy and drive away.

First let’s discuss the overall protocol of how an Oral History Project (OHP) tape was made. The Oral History Project involved a ton of interviews with scads of people. As a result, organizers needed to establish a protocol that 1) followed a certain set of university rules and regulations, and 2) kept track of and preserved every recording as it made its way through the process. For every interview that had been scheduled, organizers had a lengthy checklist of things to do and forms to fill out. 

Here’s a graphic I created after distilling down the steps described in the OHP Program Associate Handbook to help us visualize how things generally worked:

On the day of the interview (at the top of our wheel), an important thing on the to-do list involved turning on a digital audio recorder at the same time that the video recorder was turned on. That way, each video would have a backup audio recording in case the video experienced technical difficulties. The OHP rep also needed to get consent forms signed and to fill out a documentation worksheet, which held important operational notes that would come in handy later when developing such things as opening credit slides, metatags, and so on.

After the interview, when the OHP rep returned to the office, they’d put the digital videotape, or DVT, in a box on the Oral History desk, and the consent forms and worksheets in a “to be entered” folder of sorts. The Program Associates Handbook doesn’t say what happened to the audio backup, but I’m sure it had a designated holding place too, just in case they needed it. They also added the date and title of the interview to the Progress Log as well as a Master Interview List, both housed on a shared drive.

The recording was now added to the data entry form on a designated computer, nicknamed Athena, which would assign the recording a tracking number and create a label. An OHP rep would carry the DVT and its tracking label to Digital Initiatives so that the tape could be finalized and converted to a DVD. Consent forms and the documentation worksheet were also moved into a folder indicating their recording was currently at Digital Initiatives.

After the recording was returned from Digital Initiatives, DVDs were examined for glitches and then distributed to various recipients, one being the university archivist, who would assign an archive number. Consent forms and documentation worksheets would then be moved into their respective “finished” folders, which were alphabetized according to a person’s name (consent forms) or the title of the recording (documentation worksheet).

There were other forms too, which we’ll discuss in a second, but in a nutshell, this was the protocol that was adhered to every single time. In the case of the hockey coach tape, we have the signed consent forms, but two essential components of the process haven’t been located among the records at University Archives: the documentation worksheet and the audio backup recording. 

Signs that the so-called Miami Hockey Coaches tape was successfully converted to DVD

The university’s explanation has been that the Miami Hockey Coaches recording wasn’t posted online because one of two tapes had been damaged. (The so-called “good” tape that I watched was in terrible shape, so I can’t wait to see the second damaged tape whenever it becomes available.) This would mean that the DVT had been irreparably damaged before a DVD could be created. When considering the above protocol, I can think of about four opportunities for damage to occur to the DVT: during the actual videotaping, during the trip back to the office, while being hand carried to Digital Initiatives, or during the conversion from DVT to DVD.

I’ve been told that bad things could happen during the conversion process in those days, especially if you walked away from the machinery and a mishap occurred while you were gone. Perhaps that’s indeed how the tape sustained its damage. But here’s my issue: it seems as though the tape had been converted to DVD. 

Here are the clues that the tape had been successfully converted:

First, the Miami Hockey Coaches are listed on what was referred to as the DVD cross-reference form. This form had three versions, one arranged by title, one by tracking number (aka the work panel number aka the accession number), and one by archive number. As I’ve mentioned in another post, I think that the tracking/work panel/accession number for the hockey coach tape was msv00110. The archive number would be assigned by the university archivist after he received the DVD.

Although the Program Associates Handbook doesn’t state when a recording would be added to the form, it would make sense that it would be added when the DVDs had been returned from Digital Initiatives. After all, it’s called the DVD cross-reference form—it’s literally the first word in the title.

Second, the consent forms for the hockey coaches were filed in the folder with the “finished” interviews, which would indicate that they’d made it all the way through the process.

Third, according to the Progress Log, Digital Initiatives had been fully caught up on all of its conversions by May 1, 2009, and their turnaround time was approximately 1-2 weeks after receiving a DVT. By the date of the hockey coach interview, May 19, 2009, there was only one other DVT in the queue: the Marching Band Directors. There was no reason for OHP reps not to forward the hockey coach tape to Digital Initiatives as soon as possible. This was especially true since the big Bicentennial Reunion Weekend was fast approaching—June 18-21 that year—and they were attempting to have as many recordings posted online by then as possible.

Fourth, in a July 2009 narrative report, the hockey coaches were touted as one of the latest interviews conducted by the OHP team. Based on the Project Log’s overall timetable, with one exception, it was taking roughly 28 days between the date of an interview session and the date when that interview had been provided to the university archivist, which means that it was essentially ready to be deployed online. The hockey coach tape should have been successfully converted to a DVD or irreparably damaged—whichever—by June 16, 2009. For them to mention the hockey coach tape in a July report indicates that there were no mess-ups during the conversion.

Fifth, an archive number appears to have been assigned to a recording that corresponds with the timing of the hockey coach tape. That archive number is 10F-4-129. If an archive number exists for the hockey coach tape, we can conclude that it had been successfully converted to DVD. 

Sixth, when I submitted a public records request for the audio backup recording, Aimee Smart, of the Office of General Counsel, provided this lengthy explanation: 

“We do not have a responsive record. The Oral History project originally intended to back-up the interviews with multiple tapes, dvds, etc. However, they made adjustments to the original plans as the project and the budget evolved.  In the case of the audio recording, time and digital storage capacity constraints forced them to only archive the final video file rather than the secondary media on the audio device. Eventually, the memory cards would have been reformatted and reused, recycled or otherwise disposed of as well as the cassette tape.  The original plan also included multiple DVD copies of the final videos for archives and complimentary copies for participants. They felt that it became impractical due to cost and time and because the DVD media proved to be less reliable than they had hoped. Accordingly, they reduced the number of physical copies being made and mostly ceased providing complimentary copies altogether. Instead, they focused more on archiving the final video files online for eventual streaming.” 

I believe the most important words occur in the fourth sentence: “In the case of the audio recording, time and digital storage capacity constraints forced them to only archive the final video file rather than the secondary media on the audio device.” 

In my opinion, if the DVT of three legendary hockey coaches had been damaged prior to its being converted to DVD, they wouldn’t have destroyed their remaining audio backup, despite the time and digital storage capacity constraints. Only after the DVD had been created would they destroy the audio.

What I’m getting at here is that, although the university claims that the hockey coach recording made it as far as step 3 of our wheel and went no further, there are signs that it successfully had achieved step 4 and was nearly ready for posting.

For this reason, I’ve submitted several additional public records requests to try to understand the situation a little better.

One request I submitted over two weeks ago is for the ArchivesSpace screenshots for accession number msv00110. As you may recall, ArchivesSpace is the University Archives’ database for tracking all of its accessions. Here’s what I’m hoping to learn:

  • If the screenshots confirm the accession number msv00110 pertains to the hockey coach recording, that would be consistent with the other OHP records. It would also be telling, since I’d given the university this accession number on August 9, 2022, when they were still trying to locate the recording. Under this scenario, they should have found the tape well before September 14, 2022, when they informed the Court of Claims of its existence.
  • If the screenshots also happen to mention an archive number for the hockey coach recording—such as 10F-4-129, for example—that will indicate that the tape had indeed been converted to DVD.
  • And if ArchivesSpace doesn’t have any records for accession number msv00110? That would mean that there had been a tape labeled msv00110, as assigned by Athena, but they ostensibly don’t have that tape anymore. 

The last option would obviously lead us to ask what was the title of that tape and what happened to it? 

And of course, there’s this pachyderm in the parlour: If the hockey coach tape had been successfully converted to DVD, then why are we messing around with the damaged tapes at all? Where’s the DVD?

See what I mean? More questions.

There’s a Miami Hockey Coach tape, and I just finished watching part one

Oh, you guys. I was mistaken, off-the-mark, and oh so very, very wrong. There really is an interview of Miami hockey coaches that ostensibly was conducted for the Oral History Project. I just watched what’s been referred to as the good tape, and there’s still more to come once the damaged tape is repaired. I’m very, very sorry for leading you all astray and getting your hopes up. I was so hopeful that Carl Knox’s former secretary might appear somewhere, anywhere. But after watching the tape from 00:00:00 to 01:30:32, I can assure you that she didn’t.

Let’s do a quick Q&A, OK?

Oh, that’s a bummer.

It is. I was sincerely hoping that I was right—but nope.

Which coaches were interviewed?

The coaches who were interviewed match the consent forms: broadcaster Steve Baker conducted the interview with Steve Cady, Enrico Blasi, and William Davidge.

Did they look younger?

Yes, they looked great, and I’d say they all looked about 13 years younger. They were also dressed in short-sleeved shirts, which matched the time of year that the consent forms were signed. They were definitely dressed appropriately for May 19, 2009, in Oxford, Ohio.

They actually talked for an hour-and-a-half?

I couldn’t believe it either. Yes, they really, truly did. 

What was the quality of the tape?

Bad. The good tape was unbelievably bad. There were weird slow-mo moments and checkerboard screen moments and it was extremely out-of-sync with the audio for most of the tape, and by extremely, I mean like by minutes versus milliseconds. So you’d be listening to Steve Cady talking but William Davidge would be gesturing and moving his mouth. Thankfully, everything synced up for the last 10 minutes or so of the tape. But the audio ran for 1 ½ hours with only one noticeable jump, so it must have run even longer.

What did they talk about?

You’re posing this question to someone who doesn’t know a lot about hockey, but they talked all about the history of Miami’s hockey program—the building of the program, their philosophy when recruiting student athletes, the cost-saving measures during road trips, the championship games—as well as life and family issues too. The word puck was mentioned at least twice. One story that I found compellingly human had to do with when Steve Cady was coach, and the team was traveling to an away game. Back then, on road trips, players were required to wear a coat and tie to dinner. When they were walking into the restaurant, he noticed that one of his players was still on the bus. So he went back and asked him why. The player said that he didn’t know how to tie his tie. So Steve tied it for him. That was my favorite moment on the tape.

Another story that Steve Cady told had to do with the naming of the new hockey building. He didn’t want the building to be named after him. He really didn’t. You can tell that he’s a modest person. But the first donor, who’d played hockey under him, insisted on it, and he eventually gave in. They all laughed about that. That’s the last story that’s told on part one.

What else did you think about the tape?

I’ve watched a number of the Oral History Project recordings. In my opinion, this one was by far the most interesting. All of the coaches seem like very kind people—super nice. There’s not an obnoxious jerk in the bunch. I can imagine that the hockey players who played for them would have loved them. 

Also, as I was watching it, I was thinking that it must have absolutely killed the people from the Oral History Project to have these legendary coaches telling such amazing stories on a tape that turned out to be unusable. I would have been physically ill—I probably would have puked—if I had to walk into someone’s office and tell them, “You know our Oral History Project recording where a renowned hockey broadcaster spent well over 1 ½ hours interviewing three legendary hockey coaches? Yeah, well, it got damaged really bad. So bad, in fact, that there is no possible way that we can use it.” I also had to wonder: what in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks happened to the tape? 

If the video is so bad, can they just post the audio online?

Well, that’s what I thought too. I would have thought they would have treated the audio backup as if it was Wu-Tang Clan performing “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.” But I recently submitted a public records request for the backup audio, and I heard from the OGC’s Aimee Smart today. Here’s the university’s response:

“We do not have a responsive record. The Oral History project originally intended to back-up the interviews with multiple tapes, dvds, etc. However, they made adjustments to the original plans as the project and the budget evolved.  In the case of the audio recording, time and digital storage capacity constraints forced them to only archive the final video file rather than the secondary media on the audio device. Eventually, the memory cards would have been reformatted and reused, recycled or otherwise disposed of as well as the cassette tape.  The original plan also included multiple DVD copies of the final videos for archives and complimentary copies for participants. They felt that it became impractical due to cost and time and because the DVD media proved to be less reliable than they had hoped. Accordingly, they reduced the number of physical copies being made and mostly ceased providing complimentary copies altogether. Instead, they focused more on archiving the final video files online for eventual streaming.”

Still, don’t you think they should have kept the audio if the videotape was already damaged?

Yeah, I would think so.

And if the video had been damaged later on, wouldn’t they have already converted the tape to DVD, so the damaged tape shouldn’t have mattered at that point?

Great point. So it’s almost as if the damage occurred during some fleeting point in time after they’d destroyed the audio because they’d felt confident in the quality of the videotape, yet before they’d had time to create the DVD, which by then, was usually within 2-3 weeks of taping. Hmmm.

Are you OK?

Oh, thanks. I’m bummed, because I felt as if we were on to something, and you have to admit that there were weirdnesses. But I’ll get over it. After all, we’re trying to find a recording of Carl Knox’s former secretary. I don’t want to waste time looking in the wrong place.

What kinds of weirdnesses?

I mentioned several of them in my recent write-up on the consent forms. Chief among them is how no one from the Oral History Project could name one interview that hadn’t been posted online. Not one. Don’t you think someone should have remembered filming those hockey coaches for over 1 ½ hours and then not being able to use the tape because…[fill in some unbelievably sad and unfortunate story here]. I’m one of those people who remembers ALL of my past mistakes—every single one of them—usually in Dolby vision. If I’d been involved with the Oral History Project, there is no way that that interview wouldn’t have sprung to my mind immediately as one of the most epic technological fails of my career.

Another weirdness was when, early on, I’d asked several Oral History Project representatives if one of the unposted interviews was with Carl Knox’s former secretary. Not one person answered my question. They either told me that they personally didn’t interview Carl Knox’s secretary or they said nothing at all.

There are other weirdnesses too, which I’ll keep to myself right now. 

What’s the plan?

As far as the Oral History Project is concerned, I’m still waiting on the damaged tape, therefore my Court of Claims complaint is still pending. I also have a couple remaining public records requests in mind.

In addition, I’ve heard back from Aimee Smart regarding my request yesterday having to do with Athena and the screenshots for all data fields pertaining to work panel control number 110, or msv00110. Here’s what she said:

“We do not have any responsive records as Athena was the name of the computer they were using for the project and not a software program. During that time period, some internal computers in digital initiatives were given names of Greek gods and goddesses. The computer has since been decommissioned.”

So bah on that too. But make no mistake: we know that Carl Knox’s former secretary was interviewed relatively recently (within the last 20 years or so) by someone at the university, and I believe it was with someone from the library. We also know that University Archives doesn’t throw anything away. And I’ve learned a ton about archival recordkeeping through all of this. 

So I’m down but not out. Not by a slap shot.

*************

Oops, I have one additional question to add:

You said the tape was “ostensibly” conducted for the Oral History Project. Why did you say that?

I used the word ostensibly because the tape begins at the 0 counter with Steve Cady already addressing a question. There’s no mention of the Oral History Project or of Miami’s bicentennial and there are no introductions as there are with the other Oral History Project recordings.