The backup tape

On December 15, 2008, a Monday, someone affiliated with Miami University’s Oral History Project had a report to write. The weather was a little wonky that day—unseasonably warm in the wee hours, some light precipitation mid-morning, with a steady decline in temps in the p.m. I can imagine the author seated at his or her computer, all settled in with a steaming cup of jo, in full-on “no brag, just fact” mode. 

But make no mistake: this report was written to impress. To gloat a little. To describe for the powers-that-be—the highest muckety-mucks the university had to offer—the significance of all that the author and his or her colleagues had accomplished over the preceding three years. This was, after all, the university’s bicentennial celebration. By this point, 25 one-on-one interviews and 66 group interviews, called story circles, had been completed—with some of Miami’s most renowned names as well as others who were less known but who also had interesting stories to tell. 

Most interviews had been posted to the bicentennial website by then. Additional interviews would be conducted throughout the winter, spring, and summer. In two short months, the festivities would officially kick off with a Charter Day Ball. And five months and a handful of days after this report was written, someone affiliated with the Oral History Project would be sitting down with several of Miami’s legendary hockey coaches and chatting it up on camera. So gloat on, dear author, because you and your coworkers have done some amazingly impressive work. I really, truly mean that. The Oral History Project folks did an outstanding job.

When you have five free minutes, I encourage you to read the one-page report, from beginning to end. And if you have an extra minute to spare, you may want to read the second-to-last paragraph one more time, with sentence number 3 being my favorite.

Click on image for a closer view

Now, after reading all of the author’s glowing words, what do you think he or she would say if we told them about all we’ve been going through lately? Like: what would they say if we told them how long we’ve been waiting to obtain copies of the recordings that, for whatever reason, hadn’t been posted to the bicentennial website? 

Also, what would they think if they knew that I needed to obtain legal representation in hopes of obtaining copies of the unposted recordings?

And finally, what would this person say if I told them that, after all of these months, and after all of the legal proceedings, I’m still waiting on one of the recordings to turn up? As luck would have it, the missing recording happens to be the one with the Miami hockey coaches, which couldn’t have been an easy one to coordinate, what with the stature of the people involved and their jam-packed schedules.

The report’s author would probably ask: “What about the DVDs that were made from each videotape?” 

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Then, they’d ask, “Well, what about the Southwest Ohio Regional Depository? Surely they should have received a copy.”

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But then they’d say, “Well, thank goodness for the audio backup. They should at least have that.”

Of course. The audio backup, as mentioned in sentence 3 of the second-to-last paragraph. If the two hockey tapes we’re waiting on should turn up empty, University Archives should have an audio recording of the Miami Hockey Coaches interview as backup. And can you imagine if the digital videotape of those hockey coaches had been damaged or destroyed to the point where it couldn’t be posted to the website or used to create DVD copies? They would have guarded that audio recording with their lives.

********

Update 9/27/2022: Based on a 2005 funding request and other Oral History Project records, the backup audio wasn’t a “tape” per se. Audio was recorded using a digital audio recorder and converted to CD-ROM.

My latest discovery re: accession numbers and archive numbers and their relationship with a certain hockey tape

Or…an end-of-summer walk through the weeds

Photo by Rachael Crowe on Unsplash

As we wait on the university to produce the two hockey tapes that may or may not have something to do with an interview with several Miami Hockey Coaches, I haven’t exactly been sitting around twiddling my thumbs. If the tapes they produce turn out to be our coaches, great. Success. But if they’re some other unrelated hockey-themed videos, what then? Also, if the tape that’s referred to in Oral History Project progress logs and archive lists as Miami Hockey Coaches is actually labeled something else, how would they know if they’d found it? Would someone even recognize it if they were holding it in their hands? Which is why l want to be able to tell officials, at the appropriate time, the exact location where they need to look for the missing tape, regardless of its title. And today I’m happy to report that I’ve found additional evidence to support what I believe to be the honest-to-goodness real-life home address of the Oral History Project recording currently known as the Miami Hockey Coaches.

That’s right. I think that the missing tape’s accession number is msv00110 and I think its archive number is 10F-4-129. 

Let’s think about that for a second. When all of this began, I had virtually no clue which Oral History Project recordings weren’t posted online, and I didn’t know the so-called Miami Hockey Coaches recording existed. Now, even though staff members have had a tough time figuring out where the Miami Hockey Coaches recording may be, I think I can pinpoint its exact numerical ID  in not one but two University Archives numbering systems. So yeah. It’s one thing to know the title. But titles, like people’s names, can be confusingly similar. (Hence: Miami Hockey Coaches vs. Hockey Tape #2 vs. Hockey Interview #1.) Having a recording’s accession and archive numbers is like knowing its street address, Zip code, and that plus-four number at the end. That’s way better.

Granted, we’re talking in archivist jargon here, the distinction of which I’m not entirely clear on. As far as I can tell, an accession is the term used for an item that’s being added to an archives, so the accession number is the record that’s produced to track the accession as soon as it enters the door. Earlier in this blog space, we learned that the university tracks its accessions in a database known as ArchivesSpace. As for the archive number, that appears to be used to distinguish one record in a collection from another. I’m not sure why a person would need both numbers to keep track of a particular record. Maybe the archive # provides more specific information to the archivist, such as the record’s physical location—a particular filing cabinet, shelf, or drawer—or to identify a particular grouping of items, such as the Oral History Project. I don’t know. I’m not an archivist. This much we do know: as far as the Oral History Project recordings are concerned, each tape has both numbers.

If you want to see these numbers for yourself, out in the wild, you need to look in two separate places. For the accession numbers, go to the university’s Miami Stories Oral History Project web pages and click on the individual recordings. On the page with all of the credits, you’ll see that the accession number is identified as such and will start with the letters msv followed by a string of zeroes.

To see the archive number, you can visit the Special Collections and University Archives web page, and it will be included with the title and date of each recording. For the Oral History Project recordings, the number will start with the prefix 10F-4.

To further complicate matters, when I was going through the Oral History Project boxes in University Archives this past June, I stumbled on what appeared to be more numbers to ponder. At the top of an important-looking document were the words “Miami Stories Oral History Project Sorted by ARCHIVE #.” And then there was a table of titles next to two columns: one for an Archive # and another for the Control Panel #. In both cases, the numbers were one, two, or three digits with no prefixes. The numbers in the Archive # column were in order, although some numbers had been skipped over, while the numbers in the Control Panel column were jumbled. In some locations, especially on the last two pages, several boxes are left blank, some in both columns. The list ends with the interviews that had been conducted in May 2009, so they still had 13 more interviews to go at that point.

Here’s that document.

So I was yesterday years old when I finally realized that the numbers on this table are the same as the accession and archive numbers that we know and love, just sans the prefixes. In other words, if you take away the msv and a few of the preceding zeroes from the accession number, you’ll have the control panel number. (I don’t know why it’s called a control panel number—maybe it has something to do with ArchivesSpace?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Also, the WC in a few of the control panel boxes means Western College, but the numbers are still the same.) Likewise, the archive numbers in the table are the same as the ones on the Special Collections and University Archives page minus the 10F-4.

Me: 🎉 🎉 🎉

You: 🫤

Me: Wait. Why am I the only one celebrating?

You: Um…and this is important…why?

Oh, sorry. This is important because now we can fill in the blanks on the ARCHIVE # chart, especially the last two pages. And if we can fill in all of the blanks except for those next to the Miami Hockey Coaches, then we should be able to figure out which numbers should go into the Miami Hockey Coaches’ slots too.

Here’s the result.

Let’s start with the control panel number and count down from 105. Number 105 is the School of Engineering and Applied Science, number 106 is Stewards of Campus Grounds and Natural Areas, number 107 is assigned to the Marching Band Directors, 108 to Marjorie Miller Donovan, 109 to the Oxford Village leaders, and 111 went to the Physics faculty. Only number 110 was skipped over and only the Miami Hockey Coaches tape is missing a number. You guys, it’s gotta be. The control panel/accession number for the Miami Hockey Coaches is 110 or msv00110.

Now let’s look at the archive numbers, counting down from 125, which is assigned to the Cradle of Coaches members. Number 126 is Heanon M. Wilkins, 127 is Harry Lee (Bud) McCoy, 128 is the Marching Band Directors, 129 is skipped, 130 is the Village of Oxford leaders, 131 is Marjorie Miller Donovan, and so on. Again, only the Miami Hockey Coaches is missing a number and during that time period, the skipped-over number is 129. So the archive number for the Miami Hockey Coaches is very likely 10F-4-129.

page 4 — click on image for a closer look
page 5 — click on image for a closer look

Oh, sure, sure. My little system isn’t perfect. You may notice that the control panel/accession numbers experienced some skips in the early days. Some of those skipped numbers belong to the other four unposted recordings, but others may have something to do with the fact that they used to reuse the tapes after converting them to DVD. But I’ve charted it out and, from what I can tell, the last skipped accession number before number 110 was prior to June 16, 2007, at roughly the same time they stopped reusing tapes.

On the archive number side, you can see that the numbers run in consecutive fashion with the occasional skip of one or two or, yikes, eight. 😬 That’s harder to explain, and, again, the skips tended to be early on, though not all of them. I look at it this way: throughout the entire year of 2009, from January 20 through September 19, 2009, there were only two skipped archive numbers: 116 and 129, and there was only one unposted recording for that year, our Miami Hockey Coaches. Based on its placement, my bet is on 129, though admittedly 116 is also possible.

It bears repeating: University Archives doesn’t discard any of its records—whether they’re related to the Oral History Project or not. A number that’s skipped is a strong indication that a recording has been assigned that number, even if we can’t find it. The question is: where is msv00110, aka 10F-4-129, hiding?

It’s raining hockey tapes…hallelujah

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For all you hockey fans among us, I have great news. And for the rest of us, I have an important development.

For the past week or so, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a description in my own words of how everything has gone down regarding my quest to obtain the Oral History Project recordings that weren’t posted on the university’s bicentennial website. You all probably could have helped me write it, since you know pretty much everything. Actually, the blog did help me remember some of the details. (Like remember when I dressed up like Barbara Stanwyck for my first mediation meeting even though it was conducted over the phone? I was so immature back then.) As of roughly 2:00 this afternoon, my affidavit totaled about 3000 words and I’d begun assembling my supporting documents, 14 in all, which would be exhibits A through N. I wanted to be ready at the exact moment it was time for me to tell the special master (yes, you heard me, my case has a special master too) my side of the story. 

To provide a little more background, when the last mediation hearing had concluded a couple weeks ago (August 31), the university and I were at an impasse over the hockey coaches recording, which meant that the mediation part of the process had come to an end. The word the Court of Claims used was “failed,” which was kind of sad. If any of you have ever served on a hung jury, it felt like that. All that time invested, and we’d come up short. It also meant that the university’s lawyer had 10 business days in which to “file a response, and if applicable, a motion to dismiss” my complaint. 

The ball has been in their court this entire time, which is why I’ve been quiet lately. I had no idea what their lawyer would say. I also couldn’t tell from the special master’s instructions how much time I was going to have to respond after the university’s lawyer submitted whatever he was planning to submit. The timeline looked tight. The special master would submit his report and recommendation “no later than 7 business days” after the university’s lawyer submitted his response, which didn’t give me much time. I’d been working on my affidavit so that, when the time came, I’d be able to send my response off too—hopefully within an hour of the university lawyer’s response.

But today at around 2:20 p.m. I received a surprise. My lawyer forwarded an email saying that the university wished to reopen mediation proceedings. It appears that they have located a hockey recording—which their lawyer has identified as “Hockey Interview #1.” Also, they have found a vendor to repair “HOCKEY TAPE #2 (EDIT),” which is also great news. 

So we’ll see. It still could take a little while, but hopefully by this time next month, we’ll know if one…or both…or neither of the hockey tapes contain the 5/19/2009 interview with the Miami Hockey Coaches as part of Miami’s Oral History Project. 

Miami U can’t produce the hockey coach tape. Here’s why that’s a very big deal

Oh. That’s really interesting. After being given 8 weeks to look for it, Miami officials still can’t produce the recording of the hockey coaches. This is supposedly after checking the most dependable, last-ditch place in which to look, the Southwest Ohio Regional Depository, on Miami’s Middletown campus, where a back-up copy of every recording produced as part of Miami’s bicentennial should have been sent. You know, for safe-keeping.

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, “Good Lord, woman, why do you keep talking about that hockey coach tape? Can we PULLLEEEEZE get back to the topic of Ron Tammen?”

I apologize. Clearly, we don’t know if the tape ostensibly labeled “Miami Hockey Coaches” is, as I’ve come to believe, of Carl Knox’s former secretary, and thus pertinent to Ron Tammen’s case. My sincere hope is that it is, but we’ll have to watch the tape before we know for sure.

What we do know for sure is that the hockey coach tape hasn’t materialized yet and, what’s more, may never materialize. 

A missing tape may not seem like a big deal during these, um, uncharted times in which we’re living, but if you happen to work in a public institution, as Miami’s faculty, staff, and administrators do, in a state that has a Sunshine Law, as Ohio does, it could be considered a very big deal. 

You see, when the hockey coach tape was created, it became a public record, as did copies that were created from the original tape.

According to this flowchart, five DVD copies were made from each Oral History Project recording and sent to University Archives and storage. A “preservation copy” was sent to a repository.

According to Section 149.43 of Ohio’s Revised Code, Ohio’s Public Records Act, if a member of the public should request it, it should be promptly (their word) made available to them. The law prohibits the destruction of a public record until a certain period of time—called a retention period, which is prescribed by the institution in question—has elapsed, unless special permission has been granted.

But the retention period doesn’t apply in this case. Here’s why: the hockey coach tape was produced by University Archives for the Miami Stories Oral History Project. University Archives, as a rule, doesn’t throw any of its records away. That’s especially true concerning recordings that they themselves created in celebration of the university’s bicentennial, which they dubbed a “legacy project.” Heck, they’ve even saved two recordings of former staffers from the radio station WMUB—one recorded in March 2007 and the second in July 2008—even though the 2007 tape experienced technical issues and the 2008 tape was a do-over. According to university documents, every Oral History Project recording was considered to be a permanent part of the University Archives collection, which means that their retention period was supposed to be forever and always. 

Organizers stated as much on their 2005 application to Miami’s Institutional Review Board to conduct its first story circle. Under item #10, “Procedures for Safeguarding Confidentiality of Information,” they wrote: “Oral histories are not confidential. Interviewees will understand this before signing the consent form. Tapes are not destroyed, but instead are saved in Archives for use by future researchers.”

A 2007 iteration of the bicentennial website says: “…Miami Stories discussions are recorded and stored on digital video formats so that future generations may enjoy and study them, and scholars may have ready access to unique information about Miami’s past.”

A December 15, 2008, Oral History Project report said that use of the recordings “is professionally monitored by University Archives. All interviews are filed there for consulting by future scholars, students, University officials, and the public.”

Well…all interviews except one, apparently. Look at it this way: A recording that was created to last forever and always so that it could be enjoyed and studied by future researchers—including yours truly—appears to be lost at best, or, at worst, gone forever.

Oh, there’s one other option, I suppose. The university has indicated through their lawyer that the recording may well exist but is damaged, and they sent the following photo of a tape titled “HOCKEY TAPE #2 (EDIT).” (There wasn’t a tape labeled HOCKEY TAPE #1, and the tape that was in the same box was recorded over and unrelated to hockey.) From what I can tell, no one has watched the damaged tape to confirm if there are any hockey coaches on it because, you know, the damage and all.

I’m skeptical. I don’t think an Oral History Project recording of Miami hockey coaches would be labeled as some generic “Hockey Tape.” Also, I’m a child of the 1970s who used to listen to music on audio cassettes and, later on, to watch my videos on VHS. When those cassettes would get mangled up like that, we’d take out a trusty #2 pencil and stick it in one of the holes and wind it up ourselves, past the part that was damaged. And voila, working again.

When I showed the photo to an expert I know, that’s exactly what he suggested, including the pencil trick. Or, if the tape is too badly crinkled, perhaps the bad part could be cut out and the two good ends taped together. His opinion is that a little damage doesn’t mean the entire recording is compromised. Maybe the end product isn’t good enough to post online, but at least my question concerning the hockey coaches could be answered. For this reason, I plan to request a chance to review Hockey Tape #2.

If we find that it really is just a bunch of hockey coaches being interviewed for the bicentennial, fine. We can all move on with our lives. But if it isn’t of Miami hockey coaches? 

No one is going to jail over a missing hockey coach tape. I’ll be proceeding with my case through the Ohio Court of Claims, a process that could potentially accrue even more legal costs, which isn’t exactly the happiest of options for an ordinary citizen such as yours truly.

Ordinary citizens have pursued lawsuits under Ohio’s Public Records Act, and public offices have had to pay hefty fines for noncompliance. One of the most impressive rulings was the case of Kish versus the City of Akron, when two former city employees who were jointly seeking a little more than $900 in overtime pay were awarded over $860,000 in punitive damages: $1000 for each record that had been destroyed (480 records for Elizabeth Kish and 380 records for her colleague Victoria Elder) plus compensatory damages. Obviously, the city wasn’t elated with the outcome. If they were unwilling to fork over $900, imagine their displeasure when they were ordered to pay 956 times that amount. But the ruling was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit as well as the Ohio Supreme CourtIn 2011, the amount of damages that a public office could owe was capped at $10,000, regardless of the number of records that were illegally destroyed.

It’s worth noting that any potential punitive and compensatory damages aren’t paid by the people who have destroyed public records. Nope, taxpayer dollars pay for damages owed, not to mention the public office’s legal representation. In my Court of Claims complaint, throughout the mediation process, Miami U’s lawyer has been funded by Ohio taxpayers (including yours truly) as an employee of the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

But honestly? I don’t think the so-called hockey coach tape has been destroyed. Historians, archivists, and people of that ilk have a passion for records that lives deep in their bones. My theory is that, sometime between July 2009 (the last time I know of when the hockey coaches were mentioned in an Oral History Project report) and September 2009 (when they were left off of a master list of interviews), some well-intentioned person might have placed the tape in a dark corner of King Library, hoping, for whatever reason, that it would go unnoticed until all of us were long gone. 

Perhaps this theoretical person envisioned some other researcher—someone way, way in the future; someone who is kinder and gentler and less bothersome than I—stumbling upon it. That good person would sit down to have a listen—if they could find the outmoded technology on which to play it, that is—and hear forgotten voices from Miami’s past. Would it be the voices of hockey coaches telling stories about the birth of that program and some of their more momentous matches or would it be the lone voice of Carl Knox’s former secretary sharing her memories of a quiet yet profoundly motivated business student who went missing in 1953? By then, who would really care?

I don’t know yet if my theory will hold up, but you can bet that I really care. Thankfully, there are a few additional places I can look that don’t involve lawyers and legal fees. As mentioned earlier, I’ll be making another trip to Oxford in the near future, asking to review HOCKEY TAPE #2. I’ll also ask to review the three Oral History Project boxes again, especially the folders containing consent forms, several of which I’ve been informed were signed by some former Miami hockey coaches. Lastly, it probably wouldn’t hurt if I just asked a few of the Miami hockey coaches myself, would it?

More evidence that St. Clair Switzer was involved in something in 1956-57 that he didn’t want to talk about

I’ll keep this short. 

I’ve been thinking more about St. Clair Switzer. 

You know how I have this theory that Doc Switzer was on a sabbatical in academic year 1956-57 with Louis Jolyon (Jolly) West, the world famous psychiatrist and MKULTRA researcher who was at the University of Oklahoma at that time? And you know how I also believe that Jolly West was the author of a February 1957 CIA research proposal seeking funding for himself and a visiting academic (Switzer, imo) who was “thoroughly familiar with hypnotism at the theoretical level” to create a hypnotic messenger that summer for use by the military?

Gosh, when I put it like that, it does seem a wee bit far-fetched, doesn’t it?

Well, I have a little more info to help back it up.

Don’t get too excited—it’s not that big. But it’s not nothing either.

We already know that Switzer had been granted permission for a sabbatical for that academic year. His original plans had been to work under psychophysiologist Marion A. (Gus) Wenger (no relation) at UCLA the prior year, but those plans had to be postponed. Everett Patten, chair of Miami’s psychology department, felt that he needed Switzer around to help with a curriculum change that was taking place at that time, and he suggested that Switzer’s sabbatical be pushed back a year. With this turn of events, Switzer checked with Wenger to see if the change was OK with him and Gus said that the new timeframe should still be fine. But in December 1956—three months into the 1956-57 academic year—Gus wrote to Switzer telling him that he’d decided to travel to India to study yogis instead. He offered a space for Switzer in September 1957, but, because Switzer’s sabbatical would have ended by then, that would be too late.

How do we know that Switzer found somewhere else to go?

We know that Switzer was definitely not working in Miami’s psychology department that year because his earnings sheet shows a total of $00 for the year 1956-57. Here’s the document:

Click on image for a closer view

The stray mark to the right of the “7” had first made me wonder if the earnings line for that year just hadn’t picked up enough inkjet toner, but I don’t think so. To me, it looks more like something had been written there but was erased. For this reason, I think it’s safe to conclude that Switzer made zero dollars and zippo cents that year from Miami.

That’s a little odd, since Clarence Kreger, Miami’s cantankerous provost, had informed Switzer that he could earn half his salary while on sabbatical. (These days, sabbaticals are usually fully paid, but times were different then.) (I feel like I say that a lot on this blog.) (I feel like I use parentheses a lot too.) Anyway, somehow, Switzer was able to make ends meet without needing that little boost. He was out of the office all year, including the summers of 1956 and 1957.

Click on image for a closer view

How do we know that he was gone during the summers too?

We know it because Switzer was a self-promoter. If there was an achievement that he wanted other people to know about, he’d alert one of the local rags, especially the easier ones to get into, like the Miami Student or the Oxford Press. This was especially true when he was an assistant professor in the 1930s. Often the hard-hitting news blurbs were about prize money he’d won for an ad or slogan he’d submitted in a contest, which he did frequently as part of his business psychology course. If he spent the summer doing something prestigious-sounding—like the time he’d worked with prisoners at Northeastern Penitentiary in Lewisburg, PA—you can bet that Switzer would make sure it was brought to the attention of fellow faculty members, administrators, and the surrounding Oxford community. Promotions received, degrees earned, joining the war effort, returning from the war effort—he liked to have such things documented. (As a historical researcher, I’m not opposed to this practice.) 

Later on, as his extracurricular activities became more, um, stealth, he reined in his need for newsprint. 

During the year of his sabbatical, Switzer found two occasions to show off a little for the folks at home. In August 1956, an article appeared in one of the local papers announcing that Switzer had returned from a “tour of duty” at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado. (According to his military records, his tours of duty averaged 15 days.) During that visit, he’d helped develop the psychology curriculum for the new Air Force Academy, which had been temporarily located there while the permanent school was being constructed in Colorado Springs. A year later, a much shorter article was published saying that he’d just returned home after spending three more weeks at the Air Force Academy. 

What I’m trying to say here is that Switzer had been on a sabbatical for roughly 64 weeks, yet we only get to know what he did for five or six of those weeks. Whatever he was doing between the two Augusts, he wasn’t saying. And trust me, if Switzer was ever presented with the chance to boast about his accomplishments, he seized it. If he’d spent the year conducting psychophysiological research in Gus Wenger’s lab, the world would have heard about it. 

It was uncharacteristic for him to be so tight-lipped in those circumstances, which leads me to wonder if he used the second news item to bookend his time away. Maybe then people wouldn’t ask questions about all that time in between.

How did he manage to find a spot with Louis Jolyon West so soon after Gus Wenger let him down?

This is where the timeline gets murky. Gus Wenger’s letter was dated December 1, 1956, and by the sound of it, it was late in coming. 

“Dear Doc, I have been meaning to write you for some time about our plans,” he said. He then proceeded to describe a number of monkey wrenches that had been thrown into their original arrangements while offering an alternative date that was much too late.

The letter was addressed to Switzer’s office in the Department of Psychology, which Switzer surely wasn’t occupying by then. The department secretary would’ve probably forwarded the letter to Switzer’s home address, but that would have taken even more time away from his eroding sabbatical.

It’s possible that Switzer was biding his time at Wright Patterson as he waited on Wenger. But patience isn’t exactly a virtue that I would ascribe to St. Clair Switzer. Sometime after returning from Colorado, I can see him giving up on the prospect of spending a year in California and seeking assistance from his highly decorated contacts with the Air Force. By late fall, I think they’d put him in touch with Jolly West.

You’ve already seen the letter that I believe Switzer had written to a colleague he knew from his Clark Hull days, Griffith W. Williams, who was then at Rutgers. That letter, dated December 6, 1956, had been a follow-up to a discussion that had taken place between the three hypnosis experts, likely over the phone, on November 27. 

Here it is again:

Document provided with thanks to The Black Vault at https://www.theblackvault.com/
Document provided with thanks to The Black Vault at https://www.theblackvault.com/

By the time Wenger finally wrote to Switzer on December 1 saying “no can do,” I think Switzer had already moved on.

How about you—what do you think? 

A rift between friends: Did Doc Switzer and Everett Patten have a falling out?

Well hello there! Good to see you. As you may know, we’re currently awaiting word from Miami University officials regarding the two remaining Oral History Project recordings that weren’t posted to the university’s bicentennial website back in 2009. We’re especially interested in the recording that was ostensibly titled “Miami Hockey Coaches,” since our running theory is that there really isn’t a recording of Miami hockey coaches at all, but rather a tape of Carl Knox’s former secretary that had been mislabeled. As soon as I receive their response, no matter what it is, I have a blog post all raring to go. Here’s a sneak peek at the three possible headlines:

A. Amazing news: Miami U has just released the recording of Carl Knox’s former secretary; OR

B. Miami U found the tape. It really is just a bunch of hockey coaches; OR

C. Miami U can’t produce the hockey coach tape. Here’s why that’s a very big deal.

So, that’ll be fun, even if it turns out to be Option B, which is clearly the least thrilling one. (Sorry, Miami hockey coaches, but we’re on a mission here. Maybe under different circumstances, we’d be more interested in hearing your tales of puck hoisting, flip passing, sweep checking, and whatnot, but now’s just not that time.) 

In the meantime, let’s talk a little more about St. Clair Switzer and Everett Patten, the two heavyweights in Miami’s psychology department when Ron Tammen was a student. As you’ll recall, both men had studied under the eminent psychologist Clark Hull and both had expertise in hypnosis. Doc Switzer was Ron’s general psychology professor during both the fall and spring semesters of 1952-1953, though, for whatever reason, Ron had dropped his course both times. Patten, who’d been teaching psychology courses at Miami for roughly 30 years by then and had served in its highest post for 20 of those years, was also a familiar face in the corridors of old Harrison Hall. Based on everything that I’ve read, Patten and Switzer had gotten along well. 

In the early days of their association, the dynamic between Patten and Switzer was one of mentor and student. Patten was seven years older than Switzer. In 1924, as Switzer was beginning his undergraduate courses at Miami, Patten was an assistant professor there. He’d completed his master’s degree under Hull at the University of Wisconsin and would soon be working toward his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. It’s a near certainty that Patten had talked Hull up to his promising protégé. And in 1928, when Switzer had decided he’d like to pursue his master’s degree under Hull too, I’m sure Patten wrote to Hull on Switzer’s behalf enthusiastically recommending him as a graduate student. 

If it hadn’t been for Everett Patten, St. Clair Switzer likely wouldn’t have encountered Clark Hull, let alone been able to hitch his wagon to Hull’s luminous star. 

By the early 1930s, Switzer’s relationship with Hull appeared to be growing closer than Patten’s had been, which seemed to alter the dynamic between Patten and Switzer. While Patten had only worked with Hull for his master’s degree, Switzer had earned his master’s with Hull and was now working with him for his doctorate too, this time at Yale. Though Patten had continued to correspond frequently with Hull and performed experiments for him at Miami, Switzer was on the receiving end of more in-person Hull time. There would be regularly scheduled tête-à-têtes; impromptu pop-ins; and the occasional bonding over breakfasts, brown bag lunches, dinners, and post-Prohibition drinks with Hull and his stellar cadre of graduate students. Switzer was playing in the big leagues now and it appeared to be going to his head. 

Such was the backdrop in March 1934, as Hull and his team were still riding high on the recent publication of his book Hypnosis and Suggestibility, that Switzer typed a letter to Patten on cream-colored Yale letterhead. In the space of three pages, he exudes unbridled arrogance as he first discusses an experiment that he and Hull would like Patten to conduct for them—an experiment for which Patten had needed some additional clarification.

“Dear Pat,” Switzer opened, “When your letter arrived this morning the boss and I decided that it was time for us to go into a huddle and find out where we had confused you on the program of running subjects.” 

I mean, it’s not quite “Pat, Pat…What were you thinking?”, but it’s close. He then explains step-by-step what he and Hull needed Patten to do for them. 

Switzer gets even higher and mightier on page 2, when he broaches one of his favorite subjects: money. At that time, psychology at Miami was part of the Philosophy and Psychology Department, with Everett Patten heading up the psychology side. (Psychology became its own department in 1943.) Patten was the person who’d granted Switzer leave to pursue his Ph.D. at Yale. Now, Switzer is informing him that a professor in philosophy, W.W. Spencer, and President Upham had been discussing Switzer’s possible return between themselves, sans Patten. Spencer had expressed interest in having Switzer teach a course in logic on top of his psychology courses, and Upham was in favor. Here’s where Switzer makes his big ask:

“So I’m anxiously waiting to hear what [President Upham] has to offer in the way of salary. If you have a talk with prexy [a nickname for a university president that I’d never heard of before St. Clair Switzer came into my life] I hope you’ll try to persuade him that I’m worth not a cent less than $2000, and more if possible! Also, as I have held the position and rank of instructor here you might suggest the rank of associate there. I know that I’m not likely to get these things, but there is a possibility and now is the time to take advantage of it. I feel that if I’m worth $2500 to Yale I must have at least an equal value for Miami, but there’s no use trying to get it. However, I like Miami and I like to work with you, and I like to teach psychology, so I’m willing to pass up some things to come back.”

Seriously, St. Clair? His ballsiness and fake modesty all smushed into a single paragraph is bizarre. But I think my biggest beef is with his use of an exclamation point when making a salary request. Who does that? It’s important to note that the $2000 figure is actually $300 less than what he was earning as an assistant professor before he left Miami for Yale. But this was the Great Depression, and Miami had been cutting salaries, not handing out raises. His request to be promoted to an associate—as in an associate professor—at this stage in his career is laughable, even back then when the rules were a little more relaxed than they are today. As it turns out, Miami offered him a salary of $2100. As for the promotion to associate professor, Switzer wouldn’t get that until 1939.

Here’s a little more of what Switzer had to say to his boss and former mentor further on in his letter: “I’ve been terribly busy during the last two weeks trying to put the finishing touches on my dissertation. Boy, am I anxious to get things finished and get back and have a look at you again. It certainly will be great to sit across the desk from you again—if I may have my old desk back again.”

I mean, we’re all adults here. We’re able to discern a load of disingenuousness when we hear it, right? Despite Switzer’s supposed eagerness to have a look at Patten from across their shared desk in the west tower of old Harrison Hall, I’ve learned from other letters he’d written over the same period that he was upset at how tight money had become in Oxford. He’d been putting his feelers out elsewhere. A month earlier, he’d attempted to secure a fellowship from the National Research Council so that he could work at Stanford alongside fellow Yale graduate Ernest “Jack” Hilgard, thus bolstering his research credentials and opening up new doors to who knows where. A month after he wrote his letter to Patten, he applied for a job in the Office of Industrial Relations at Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati. But the fellowship didn’t pan out and neither did P&G and, by September 1934, he was back at Miami, staring at Patten’s pencil mustache and receding hairline from across their communal desk. 

Whether Switzer was happy about returning to Miami or not, Patten had come through for him once again.

But that was Patten’s management style. He aimed to keep his staff happy while also meeting the demands of tuition-paying students. Switzer, who didn’t seem to relish the part of academia that involved teaching—he liked doing research far better—was always on the look-out for prestigious side gigs, particularly those having to do with the federal government, the U.S. military, or both. Usually, the opportunities were temporary, summers mostly, and Patten could be counted on to lend his support.

During World War II, Switzer left the psychology department for a much longer period than normal, although he wasn’t alone. Many professors at the university joined the armed services. In June 1942, he signed up to work in test development at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. By August, he was commissioned as an officer in clinical psychology for the U.S. Army Air Forces, and there he remained for 3 ½ years, continually advancing in leadership posts all the way up to his role as chief of demobilization procedures at U.S. Army Headquarters in Washington, D.C. When the war was over, he returned to Oxford in December 1945, yet he still didn’t return to the psychology department. Instead, he worked as chief vocational appraiser for returning GIs in the Veterans Administration Guidance Center at University Hospital. Not until the fall of 1948-49 did he return full-time to the Department of Psychology to teach some courses. 

Think about that—Switzer was away for over six years and he still had a job to come back to. 

Switzer’s career continued to flourish thanks in large part to Patten’s benevolence and accommodating nature. In the post-WWII years, Switzer would continue to periodically request leave from his departmental responsibilities whenever Uncle Sam sought his services as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves. He made himself available for other opportunities as well, including briefly working as a consultant for the Air Research and Development Command in Baltimore in 1951. If, as I strongly believe, he was approached in 1952 to help out the CIA with their interrogation endeavors, aka Project ARTICHOKE, I’m sure he went all in with that effort too.

We already know what happened in the spring of 1953. Doc Switzer was back to teaching full-time in the classroom when a student of his—Ron Tammen—disappeared after dropping Switzer’s course for a second time that year. It probably irked old Doc that Ron had left his psychology book open on his desk before disappearing, since it brought some unwanted attention his way. He was questioned by investigators, though if he knew anything, the information he provided was never made public. Likewise, Switzer’s name never made it into news articles concerning the Tammen case. Instead, it was his old friend and mentor, Everett Patten, who would occasionally speak to reporters (particularly those reporters who were affiliated with the university) on the topic of Ron Tammen and why Miami was leaning so hard toward amnesia as the most likely reason Ron disappeared.

The tl;dr of all of the above is that Everett Patten had Switzer’s back for as long as he was in a position of power at Miami, and he proved it over and over and over.

In 1961, Everett Patten stepped down as department chair, recommending that Switzer be named to replace him. For a long time, I was bemused by that move. Why would he step down as department chair but not retire at the same time?

I think I know now. It had to do with the university’s retirement policy back then. In 1960, Patten had turned 65, the age at which the university required that a faculty member’s tenured appointment be converted to an annual appointment (which is insane and no longer the case). He would then have the opportunity to work an additional five years, with his appointment being renewed each year until he reached the age of 70, at which time he would be required to retire.

But Patten had a slight advantage. The university’s cut-off date was July 1, so if a person turned 65 by that date, their tenured appointment ended June 30 of the current academic year. But Patten was born on July 7, which meant that he could work through another entire academic year—until June 1961—before being switched over to an annual appointment. Likewise, even though he’d be turning 70 on July 7, 1965, he could feasibly work until June 1966 before mandatory retirement. It’s confusing, and this paragraph took me an embarrassing amount of time to write, but it’s important for this story. Just hang with me, people!

So the short answer is that in 1961, Patten was preparing to change over to an annual appointment. He couldn’t serve as chair of a department without knowing where he’d be from year to year, could he? So he stepped down and got his long-time colleague, St. Clair Switzer, to take over for him while he would continue teaching until he’d finally retire.

But retirement is a complicated prospect. The word itself sounds so old and exhausted. (I think it’s the root word “tire” that brings everyone down so much.) I’ll never forget the time I was stewing about my own early retirement with two friends over lychee martinis and dim sum near Dupont Circle. One of them looked at me and said very matter-of-factly, “Don’t think of it as retirement, think of it as rewirement.” Which is brilliant, right? Think of it as a chance to do the stuff that you never had the chance to do before because you never had the time—like dive into the Ron Tammen case, for example. So yeah! Rewirement, baby!

Man, I could really go for some dim sum right about now; Photo by K8 on Unsplash

Unfortunately, Everett Patten didn’t have the pleasure of meeting my friends over lychee martinis when he was at his crossroads. He was harboring different thoughts. According to university documents, Patten first thought he might like to retire in June 1964 because of “ill health,” and he told Switzer as much. Switzer actually told him to think it over a little more, and Patten indeed changed his mind and decided to retire in June 1965.  Switzer agreed. But then, Patten must have remarked to one or more people that he was considering making use of the July 1 cut-off and retiring in June 1966. When Switzer found out, he wasn’t having it. Instead of talking with Patten one-on-one, he wrote a letter to acting President Wilson, telling him:

“Dear Ray: I notified Dean Limper several months ago that I plan to terminate Professor Patten’s appointment as of June 1965. Technically, he would be eligible for an additional year since his 70th birthday falls on July 7, 1965, one week after the official deadline. However, for reasons which I have outlined to Dean Limper, it seems that the best interests of the department will be furthered by termination of his appointment next June.”

Later on, he says: “I have not yet informed him of my decision to relieve him of his duties next year (June 1965), since I’m hoping that he will make this choice himself. However, it has come to my attention from other sources that he now hopes to invoke the technicality of his 70th birthday falling one week after July 1, 1965 to request an extra year. In this case I shall have the unpleasant task of refusing this request.”

And he ends with this:

“I thought you should have these notes for your file in the event that he should appeal my decision. I can only say in advance that under no circumstances would I alter this decision.”

In a follow-up memo to the president, several months later, he wrote:

“My decision to ask for termination of his appointment in June is based on consideration of the best interests of the Department of Psychology. I have explained to Dean Don James some of the reasons that impelled me to this decision.”

That memo was dated December 28, 1964, and on January 7, 1965, Everett Patten submitted his resignation to acting President Charles Wilson at the request of Dean Don James. It was short, but painful.

“Dear Ray: In order to comply with your request, transmitted to me by Dean Don James, I hereby tender my resignation from the Miami University Staff, this to take effect June 30, 1965. Sincerely, E.F. Patten.” (President Wilson’s reply is lovely and deserves a read.)

Sorry, but I can’t tell you why Switzer had taken his harsh stance against his former boss and mentor who had helped him get to where he was in life. Switzer made a point of not putting his reasons in writing. I will say this: I don’t know what the health issue was that was affecting Patten in 1964,  but it’s my understanding that the health issue that Patten died of in September 1966 happened quickly. I’ve seen nothing to indicate that his brain was deteriorating or that he was somehow showing worrisome signs of aging. In February 1963, 1½ years before Switzer wrote his letter to President Wilson, Patten had joined on with other psychology professors in the tri-state area to form a behavioral science firm. That doesn’t sound like someone who was slipping.

I’ve wondered if perhaps Ron Tammen’s disappearance might have had something to do with it. Had Patten put two and two together and asked Switzer if perhaps he’d orchestrated it? 

I don’t know, but something must have set him off.

********

Correction: Letters that I’ve rediscovered between Switzer and Pres Upham indicate that Switzer was offered $2100 to return to Miami from Yale, not $2160. I’ve made the change.

The missing hockey tape

Photo by Maurice DT on Unsplash

At the risk of sparking controversy on this website, I feel the need to let you know that I’m not a huge fan of ice hockey. If I had to name a reason, I think it has to do with all the banging of Plexiglas. There seems to be a lot of that packed into 60 minutes of game play. And for what? The thrill of watching your team smack a puck into the other team’s goal maybe two or three times if you’re lucky? (Cautionary note: The above is merely this girl’s opinion. If you have other thoughts on this hot-button issue, the comment box is now open!)

🏒🏒🏒

So, again, not a fan. Nevertheless, I have to admit that my fervor for hockey has increased substantially lately.

It has to do with a video that I discovered on my recent trip to Oxford, Ohio, when I was in search of Oral History Project recordings that weren’t posted on the university’s bicentennial website. 

Actually, let me rephrase that. I haven’t discovered the video just yet. What I discovered was a paper trail that points to the existence of a video recording, and the recording that the paper trail points to was ostensibly conducted on May 19, 2009, with a group of former Miami hockey coaches.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Why do you care about finding the hockey coach recording when you just got through telling us that you’re not a fan of the sport? What’s more, hockey coaches probably don’t have anything substantive to offer regarding the Tammen mystery.”

Here’s what I’m thinking: I’m thinking Carl Knox’s former secretary might be on that recording. I’m also thinking that the recording may still exist.

Here’s you again: “I had no idea that Carl Knox’s former secretary coached ice hockey.”

Haha, you’re such a kidder. No, Carl Knox’s former secretary didn’t coach ice hockey, and I don’t think she sat down with several Miami hockey coaches for an interview. What I’ve been wondering lately is whether Carl Knox’s former secretary’s interview was, um, for whatever reason, accidentally mislabeled “Miami Hockey Coaches” and that it somehow managed to become separated from all of the other Oral History Project recordings.

I’m not going to go into more detail tonight since I could be very wrong about this theory, and if I’m wrong, then I’ll need to walk everything back. I’m just asking the question at this point.

I can say this: on May 19, 2009, a recording of Miami hockey coaches supposedly existed, as evidenced by a progress log and an archive list.

The Miami Hockey Coaches recording is listed second from the bottom of this progress log
The Miami Hockey Coaches recording is listed at the bottom of this archive list

It supposedly existed on May 29, 2009, when it was counted among the 11 “Completed sessions not yet on Website.”

The hockey coaches interview is counted among the 11 completed sessions not yet on Website as opposed to the recordings that weren’t posted to the Website “for miscellaneous reasons,” even though it ostensibly never was posted online.

It supposedly existed in July 2009, when it was mentioned in a narrative report.

But by September 2009, the hockey coach recording was left off of the 2006-2009 master list of recordings. It’s not mentioned on the Special Collections webpage of Oral History Project recordings and, it bears repeating, it’s not posted on the bicentennial website. I’m currently awaiting word as to its whereabouts. 

I’ll keep you posted.

In honor of July 4th, some additional musings on FOIA and Ron’s missing person documents

It’s the fourth of July, and hoo boy, looks like I’m another year older. How old is that, you ask? Let’s just say that I can now relate to that song by the Beatles where Paul McCartney sings about reaching this impossibly far-off age and he wonders if his significant other will still need him and feed him while she’s knitting his sweaters and he’s weeding the garden. [Note to readers: I never do the former and rarely the latter. Besides, this Beatles tune is more up my alley.]

Do you know who else’s birthday it is? The Freedom of Information Act. FOIA was signed into law on July 4, 1966, so it’s a sprightly 56. Comparatively speaking, FOIA is the Shania Twain to my Gloria Estefan, the Ben Stiller to my Alec Baldwin, the Benzino to my Ice-T. 

In celebration, I’d like to discuss a few of the discoveries I’ve made recently about Ron’s missing person documents thanks to other people’s FOIA requests. Because that’s one of the coolest things about FOIA—the information one person obtains can benefit lots of people in numerous unforeseeable ways.

Of course, because it’s my birthday, I’ll be writing in my favorite format—Q&A. Let’s go!

Have you learned anything more about the Missing Person File Room?

You’re referring to the stamp on a few of Ron’s documents that said “Return to Ident Missing Person File Room”? Yes—yes, I have.

Care to tell us?

As you know, the room number they’d specified was 1126. Although they didn’t say which building, I recently reported that room 1126 was on the first floor of the Identification Building, which was located at Second and D Streets SW, in DC. In that same post, I also attempted to make the case that the Ident Missing Person File Room was probably overseen by the Files and Communications Division, which was responsible for managing most of the FBI’s files and had occupied much of the first floor of the Ident Building.

Thanks to a FOIA request on another missing person case submitted by The Black Vault’s John Greenewald, Jr., I now know more about the Ident Missing Person File Room. The case concerned Charles McCullar, a 19-year-old Virginia man who was reported missing in February 1975 after he was expected home from a hiking trip to Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park. When you look through Mr. McCullar’s missing person documents, you’ll see that several of those documents were also maintained in the Ident Missing Person File Room. But his documents weren’t in the Identification Building. Rather, they were held in a room in the J. Edgar Hoover Building after that building was completed in 1975. (Sadly, McCullar’s remains were later discovered near Bybee Creek, inside the park, and it was determined that the probable cause of death was exposure to the elements.)

Do you know where in the J. Edgar Hoover Building the Missing Person File Room was located?

The writing on the stamps is extremely difficult to read, but yes, I do believe I’ve figured it out. Here are four stamps that are on Mr. McCullar’s documents. 

Click on image for a closer view

Images 1 and 4 are clearest and the numbers look the most similar. Image 2 is practically useless. Nevertheless I compared them all in making the following assessment:

  • Let’s start with the easiest part. The letters JEH, the FBI’s abbreviation for the J. Edgar Hoover building, are clearly present at the end, as you can see in images 1, 3, and 4. 
  • Also, there appear to be four numbers preceding the letters, which eliminates floors 10 and 11, because the room numbers on those floors had five digits. 
  • As for the actual numbers, let’s begin with the second number, which appears to be 9 (images 1 and 4). 
  • The third number looks like a 6 (image 4, possibly 1). 
  • The fourth number seems to be 1 (hard slash in images 1, 3, and 4). 
  • And if you look closely at image 4, the first and second numbers appear to be the same and in parallel, written at a severe slant. Therefore, I think the first number is also a 9. 

My conclusion: after 1975, I believe the room number for the Ident Missing Person File Room was Room 9961 JEH Building.

Now that you know where the Ident Missing Person File Room was after 1975, is it possible to learn why some missing person files were kept there but not others? 

I’ve been doing a couple things to get to that answer. First, through FOIA, I’ve been attempting to obtain a list of all the files that were maintained in that room. I’d started by asking the FBI for an inventory that would have been created prior to the move into the JEH Building, but they told me that my request wasn’t searchable in their indices. I then submitted a request for an inventory of that room that was developed by someone in the Inspection Division during one of its annual inspections. If I’m told that that request is also unsearchable, I’ll be requesting all inspection reports for the Identification Division as well as the Files and Communications Division for the years 1970 through 1980. They won’t be able to wriggle out of that one, since the whole purpose of the Inspection Division was to conduct annual inspections of all FBI divisions and field offices to make sure things were up to snuff. Also, according to the Department of Justice, inspection reports are considered public information. I highly doubt that there will be complete listings of every file in those reports, but there could be more information to help me figure out my next FOIA request.

I’m also attempting to determine the room’s purpose by learning more about the people who were stationed there. In the 1975 telephone directory, I found three staff members—all women, all affiliated with the Identification Division—who occupied Room 9961 that year. Two had generic names, which makes them tough to trace. The third person had a distinctive name, so I was able to learn more about her life and career, and also that, sadly, she’d passed away at a young age in 2002. I’ve submitted a FOIA request for her personnel records to see if I can determine which section of the Identification Division she was part of.

If the Ident Missing Person File Room is part of the Identification Division, is it possible that all missing person files were kept in that room?

To the best of my knowledge, the answer is no. As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, a credible source who used to work in the Records Management Division told me that missing person documents were generally housed in the Central Records System, aka the main files, under classification number 79. Also, the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin stated that, if the Identification Division happened to have the missing person’s fingerprints on file, as they did in Ron’s case, that person’s documents would be maintained in their fingerprint jacket. This is supported by the following stamp on Ron’s documents:

In addition, in my experience, the Ident Missing Person File Room stamp on someone’s missing person documents is a rare find. So far, I’ve only found it on missing person documents for two people: Ron Tammen and Charles McCullar. I haven’t even found it on Richard Cox’s missing person documents. 

Lastly, documents from another missing person case—again, released because of someone else’s FOIA request—helps prove this point. The child’s name was Dennis Martin, a 6-year-old who’d disappeared in 1969 while on a camping trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with his family. None of his documents had the Ident Missing Person File Room stamp on them. (The case is so tragic, it’s hard to read through them. What a nightmare.)

Furthermore, I’ve noticed that the documents that tended to have the stamp on them in Tammen’s and McCullar’s cases involved letters from the FBI director (for both men) or a concerned member of Congress (for McCullar). But the stamp is not on those types of letters in Dennis Martin’s case file.

Interesting. As I was looking at Dennis Martin’s and Charles McCullar’s documents, I noticed the “Referred to Records Branch” stamp on some of them, just like the one on Ron’s documents. Were you able to learn anything about that stamp?

That stamp is confusing on so many levels. A large area of confusion for me is how it seems to provide a choice of destinations within the Records Branch—as if the staffer is supposed to check either the “Main File” or “79-1.” But if a missing person file is placed in the main files, it is filed under classification 79. There is no either/or—they’re one and the same. (By the way, if you’re wondering what the “-1” signifies after the 79, that’s the first file after the “zero” files, which are always at the front of each classification. You may recall from earlier posts that a “0” file includes random reports on people or subjects that don’t yet have enough information for their own file, while a “00” file includes bureau communications about protocol.)

I’ve compared how that stamp was marked for Tammen’s vs. McCullar’s vs. Martin’s files. For Tammen, they consistently checked the blank next to “Main File.” For McCullar, they consistently wrote the number 79 in the blank next to “Main File.” And for Martin, they mixed it up—sometimes checking 79-1, but usually checking “Main File.” 

Stamp on Ron Tammen’s document
Stamp on Charles McCullar’s document
Stamp on one of Dennis Martin’s documents
Stamp on another of Dennis Martin’s documents

I honestly don’t know what it means. I’ve tried asking two people who would know the answer for a confidential conversation about the meaning of this stamp as well as the Ident Missing Person File Room stamp. Neither have responded.

In my blog post on The Ident Files, I speculated that the “Referred to Records Branch” stamp was primarily linked to the documents in Ron’s fingerprint jacket. In other words, I thought that the documents that were “Removed from Ident files” were the same ones that had been removed from his fingerprint jacket and then handed over to the Records Branch. The monkey wrench in this theory is that I don’t believe Charles McCullar or Dennis Martin had fingerprints on file. Why were their missing person documents being referred to the Records Branch, when I’d think that they would have been there all along? I welcome any and all hypotheses to this conundrum. 

I’ll ponder on that and get back to you.

OK. 👍

In the meantime, it seems as though the documents that were held in the Ident Missing Person File Room were super tame. Why would they need their own special file room?

This is the part where I get to hypothesize my head off with very little back-up data. We know that there was at least one Tammen document that had been in room 1126 Ident that I never received through my FOIA request: a photo had been added to his file on 6-5-73, the same day that documents were “Removed from Ident files.” I don’t believe that we’re seeing everything that had been filed in the Ident Missing Person File Room.

In a recent post, I suggested that the Missing Person File Room may have been a storage place for any unsolicited tips that might have come in on various missing person cases and I also said that some of those unsolicited tips might have been of the steamy or illicit variety. So isn’t it interesting that the two people who did have a file in the Ident Missing Person File Room were adult men, whom I’d think could have generated a phone call or two, whether credible or not, while the one who didn’t have a file in that room was a 6-year-old child? As I said, I think the more interesting reading is likely long gone.

Are there other missing person files you can compare these with to get more answers?

Yes! Thanks to information obtained from a FOIA request submitted by GovernmentAttic.org, I will soon have access to a box of missing person files from the years 1947 through 1980, the year when the FBI turned over its missing person activities to the National Crime Information Center. The files are now housed in the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, MD. They’ve added me to their queue, and will let me know when I can drive out to visit them. The size of the box is too small to be complete, but I wonder if Ron Tammen’s and Richard Cox’s files are in there. Anyway, I can’t wait. 

Click on image for a closer view

Any additional updates?

Just that I have a second mediation meeting coming up on July 5 concerning several remaining unposted recordings that I’ve requested from Miami University’s Oral History Project. As opposed to the last time, in which I tried to cram in about ten pages’ worth of talking points into an hour-long phone call, I have one talking point that I plan to repeat over and over. We’ll see how it goes. 

Happy fourth, y’all. Be safe out there, and that includes wearing earplugs if you’re close to the noise.

P.S. Just saw this on Twitter and had to post. Looks like I’m in good company.

I’m back from my search for the third unposted recording from Miami University’s Oral History Project. Here’s what I found.

“I have news,” I announced to the audience of two.

The day was Thursday, June 16—just over a week ago. The time was 10:44 a.m. The place was the third floor of King Library at a wood table inside Miami University Archives. It was beastly hot outside—suffocating and sweat-inducing, with temperatures well on their way to the mid-to-upper 90s. There was no better place for us to be than that air-conditioned reading room. 

And yet, in that memorable moment, I was presented with the most uncomfortable of tasks.

Roughly 2 ½ hours earlier, three of us had arrived at this location from places hither and yon. One had driven 45 minutes that morning while two of us had driven four hours the day before—all for the purpose of perusing the university’s Oral History Project materials. It was the first day of a prearranged two-day visit in which we’d be searching for the third Oral History Project recording that hadn’t been posted to the university’s bicentennial website, as alluded to in a 2008 progress report. As we stared at the 15-20 boxes of file folders, DVDs, and audio and video tapes that the archivists had pulled for us, we felt enthusiastic. We felt focused. We felt amply equipped with university-supplied laptops and listening devices in addition to our own smartphones, notebooks, and pencils.

We divvied up responsibilities and got to work.

Kristin was reading consent forms that the interviewees had signed and marking up a chart. My sister Suzie was jotting down DVD titles. I was rifling through logs, worksheets, and progress reports and snapping pictures. Our last team member, Steve, hadn’t yet arrived—he’d be showing up in another 15 minutes.

It was at this moment, astonishingly early in the process, when I found something. But the document I’d found was no smoking gun—it was the opposite. It was a fully charged Super Soaker blasting liters of H20 all over my running theory concerning Carl Knox’s former secretary’s interview on Ron Tammen. 

The document I’d found was almost identical to the 2008 progress report, except it was the final summary, written sometime around May 29, 2009. (Interestingly, they still had 13 more interviews to conduct during Alumni Weekend and beyond, but for some reason the final summary was written before those interviews.) Instead of three recordings that weren’t posted online “for miscellaneous reasons,” there were now four. And footnoted at the bottom of the page was a list of the four unposted recordings.

Here they are:

Click on image for a closer view

We now had our answer to the question I’d kept asking people with the Oral History Project and that no one had answered: Was one of the unposted recordings of Carl Knox’s former secretary? The simple answer was no.

That’s when I walked over to Kristin and Suzie’s table and made my “I have news” announcement. I told them they could stop what they were doing and I explained why.

Of course they were stunned—Steve was too when he got the news. At times like these, it doesn’t really help to get upset. You shake your head. You laugh a little. Research can be that way—there are going to be disappointments. We all agreed that having an answer is progress. We also knew that our work wasn’t done. It just got way harder.

“We’ve now moved to the ‘needle-in-a-haystack’ part of our search,” I said. Instead of focusing on one unposted recording made sometime between 2006 and 2008, we would be searching every piece of audio or video occupying those 15-20 boxes—many unlabeled and spanning decades—for footage of Carl Knox’s former secretary.

Alas, in the ensuing day-and-a-half, we didn’t find it. But we did manage to find several interesting tapes and we gained some new insights which could help in my research.

In addition, on a progress log that was in the same folder as the Super Soaker document, I found evidence of a recording that had been conducted on May 19, 2009, for the Oral History Project that seemingly also never made it onto the bicentennial website. This one is titled “Miami Hockey Coaches,” and therefore also didn’t involve Carl Knox’s former secretary. Still, I would like to watch it sometime.

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My lawyer and I will continue to work through the Ohio Court of Claims to resolve my request seeking the unposted recordings.

Do I have unresolved questions? I do. Like why didn’t at least one person affiliated with the Oral History Project remember one or more of the recordings that were held back from public view? Or, if they couldn’t name the recordings off the top of their head, why didn’t they at least know about the box in University Archives holding the folder containing reports that held the answer? If I could find the final progress report in 2 ½ hours, think how fast someone with the university could have found it. 

Which takes me back to the feeling I had the minute I discovered the final progress report. Even though I said earlier that it doesn’t help to get upset, when you add up all of the expenses that went into finding that sheet of paper—from the lawyer fees to the three-night stay in a hotel to all of the other travel-related expenses that went into the trip—not to mention everyone’s time and energy, would you blame me if I were just a little bit bothered?

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A big, BIG thank you to the three volunteers who’d helped me for two straight days at University Archives. There is no way that I could have gotten through all of those boxes without you! 🙏

The research team (l-r): Kristin, Suzie, me, and Steve

P.S. The big red square on the front page of this blog has been edited to extend the time period in which the interview took place. The interview still happened—we just can no longer make the case that it happened between 2006 and 2008 as part of the Oral History Project.

A very brief debriefing

Or: how I survived a mediation for three unposted Oral History Project recordings, one of which I believe was with Carl Knox’s former secretary

As you can see by the subhead on this blog post, I survived the mediation. I’m still here, and thanks to six hours of sleep and the coffee cup by my side, I’m feeling somewhat renewed—somewhat—after yesterday’s hourlong Zoom call in which I was the only participant without a law degree.

I’m not permitted to tell you what was said on the call. That’s confidential. I can say that things were said—sometimes by someone else, other times by me. If an award for “most zealous conferee” had been bestowed, I suppose that honor would have been granted to me. But that’s probably a given. Spending 12-plus years of your life researching a 1953 mystery in which there are strong signs that people knew something back then—and possibly know something now—will do that. It makes a girl zealous.

So, let’s see, let’s see, what can I tell you?

  1. I can remind readers that the reason for the mediation was a 2008 progress report for the Miami Stories Oral History Project, an endeavor of Miami University Libraries to interview on camera a number of present and former Miamians and post them to a dedicated bicentennial website. The progress report had stated that, out of the 91 recordings they’d completed up to that point, three recordings hadn’t been posted on the bicentennial website “for miscellaneous reasons.” After seeing that document, I spent months asking Oral History Project representatives if Carl Knox’s former secretary was one of the three unposted interviews, and I never received an answer to that question. They either told me that they personally hadn’t interviewed Carl Knox’s former secretary, or they didn’t respond at all. If someone had simply said “no,” I would have walked away. No one did.

    In my public records request, I sought all three recordings or, if one or more of them no longer existed, the required documentation permitting their destruction. In their response, the university told me that “none of the individuals remember anything about those recordings.” They also sent me an Excel sheet listing more than 2000 recordings, many untitled, that were stored in boxes in University Archives. They let me know that I was welcome to go through them. That’s when I filed my complaint with the Ohio Court of Claims.
  1. I can also tell you that I now possess two out of the three recordings that hadn’t been posted online. In my May 4, 2022, blog post, I’d shared a document highlighting two unposted interviews, and the university has sent me their recordings. I’ve listened to both of them. Although they’re both interesting in their own way, they’re really not important to our cause. It’s the third interview that interests me most.
  1. Lastly, I can tell you that the mediation isn’t over. The next step is for me to drive to Oxford and go rummaging through those aforementioned tapes, again, many untitled, for evidence of the third unposted interview. Another mediation meeting has been scheduled for early next month.

It’s daunting, and I’m at a clear disadvantage, but rest assured that I’m still fighting and now that fight involves sitting in a hard-backed chair on the third floor of King Library listening to as many tapes as humanly possible. But if one of those tapes should reveal the kind voice of Carl Knox’s former secretary reciting a list of words that she was never to utter in the presence of reporters, it’ll all be worth it.