Was Ron Tammen spotted by H.H. Stephenson at the Adirondack Inn?

We’re still in wait mode regarding the two hockey tapes, which means that I’m biding my time working on other questions pertaining to the Ron Tammen mystery. In fact, just a couple days ago, as  I was going through photos from my last trip to University Archives, I noticed a new detail that was screaming to be investigated.

The item had to do with something a volunteer researcher had found on the second day of our visit this past June. In a box holding Tammen-related materials are notes that had once belonged to Dr. Phillip Shriver, president emeritus of Miami University and a historian who had done so much to keep the Tammen mystery alive on Miami’s campus. The notes were typewritten on index cards in outline format, and the purpose of these cards was to provide Dr. Shriver with a scaled-down version of his renowned Miami Mysteries talk. In order to keep his talk to 50 minutes, he decided to skip over the part about H.H. (Hi) Stephenson. Nevertheless, Dr. Shriver had elected to include one important detail in line #6, and that rarely disclosed detail was the name of a hotel, which was the Adirondack Inn. 

Click on image for a closer view

I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. So was this our answer? Was the Adirondack Inn the hotel in Wellsville, NY, where Hi Stephenson thought he saw Ron Tammen? You’re probably brimming with questions about this discovery too, which is why I’ll now be switching over to Q&A format.

Q: So, is that the answer? Did the serendipitous meet-up happen at a restaurant in an establishment called the Adirondack Inn?

Oh, there’s no way.

Q: How can you be so sure?

Several reasons. According to Manning’s Directory for May 1953, there was no hotel by that name in the village of Wellsville, NY. Or Andover. Or Belmont. Or Scio. Those are four towns in Allegany County in order of population size. Wellsville was by far the biggest town in the county and it was also a major stopping point for travelers. If you were going to stop for dinner anywhere between New York and Ohio, Wellsville would have been a choice spot.

Under the category of “Hotels,” Manning’s listed five of them, all in Wellsville, all off of route 17, which, in town, was known as Main Street:

  • Al-Ha-Mar Motel, 475 N. Highland Avenue (Route 17)
  • Brunswick Hotel, 173-177 North Main
  • Fassett Hotel, 55 North Main
  • Pickup’s Hotel, 38-40 North Main
  • Wellsville Hotel, 470 North Main

Therefore, one of the reasons that it couldn’t be the Adirondack Inn is that there was no such hotel in or around Wellsville. I could go on.

Q: Please do.

I’ve also looked up the terms “Adirondack Inn,” “Adirondack Hotel,” and “Hotel Adirondack” in newspapers from that era to see if anything popped up that’s close to Wellsville. The only Adirondack Inn that I was able to find was the one at Sacandaga Lake in upstate New York. It was beautiful in its heyday, and I’m sure they had a nice restaurant, but it was 4 hours and 21 minutes from Wellsville.

There’s also the Adirondack Hotel, which is in Long Lake, NY. It, too, is nice, but it was over 5 hours from Wellsville. And that sums up our options.

It’s worth pointing out that the Adirondack Inn and the Adirondack Hotel are both located in the Adirondack Mountain region, which makes so much sense. What makes less sense is for a hotel in a town near the border of Pennsylvania to be named for a mountain range that’s 325 miles away.

Q: Where do you think Dr. Shriver got the name?

These things happen innocently. Phil Shriver surely would have known Hi Stephenson. Phil had arrived in Oxford in 1965 and Hi had already been working at the university since the 1940s. Hi retired in 1977. Phil stepped down from the presidency in 1981 and retired from teaching in 1998. Hi passed away in 2006 and Phil died in 2011. So I’m sure there were plenty of opportunities for Phil to ask Hi the question that I’d always wondered if Carl Knox had asked him—“What was the name of the hotel, Hi?”

The problem is…people’s memories have a way of jumbling things up over time. It could be that Hi accidentally told Phil the wrong name. Hi and his wife Kay had been vacationing in upstate New York before driving home through Wellsville. Maybe they even stayed in the Adirondack Inn, and, when he was talking to Phil, he accidentally confused the two hotel names. Or maybe Phil had gotten the details wrong. He’d mixed up other details about Hi’s story before, as a matter of fact.

Q: Really? What makes you say that?

On another note card, Phil has written some additional details regarding Hi’s story, several of which are inaccurate. In ink, he wrote the following:

“N.B. Hi & Kay Stephenson were returning from Connecticut and stopped in Waynesboro, PA.” Above that line he wrote, “Hi recalls young man’s piercing eyes.”

Click on image for a closer view

From what I can determine, the “N.B.” is a Latin phrase meaning “Nota bene,” or “Note well.” He’s saying that this is important, and I can totally see Phil Shriver using that terminology to do so. The man had panache.

But the locations—Connecticut and Waynesboro, PA—don’t agree with Joe Cella’s April 18, 1976, article in the Hamilton Journal-News. Joe was quoting Hi directly in that article, so that’s the source I’m going to go with factually: that the Stephensons were vacationing in upstate New York and they dined in Wellsville on the way back. (By the way, I checked and there’s no Adirondack Inn in Waynesboro, PA, either.)

But don’t be too critical of Phil or Hi. They couldn’t instantly fact check some fuzzy detail like we do now. If the information wasn’t stored securely in their brain or a file folder somewhere, it could get muddled up or completely lost.

Q: So where does that leave us? Are you still unsure about which hotel it was?

Well, funny you should ask, because when I revisited Joe Cella’s article I noticed an additional detail that could help us further narrow things down.

Let’s listen to Joe tell the story again, paying close attention to the last paragraph:

On Aug. 5, 1953, five months after Tammen was gone, Stephenson, who was in charge, and still is, of housing assignments and campus permits at Miami University, was returning with his wife from a short vacation in upper New York State.

Stephenson recalled they stopped for the evening in Wellsville, N.Y. At dinner that night, in a hotel dining room, he said he noticed three or four men sitting a few tables away. At once he said he became aware one of the men looked exactly like Tammen. He said he knew Tammen.

“When my eyes looked toward him, I would find he was looking at me. He was sort of looking right through me. For some reason that I’ll never know, I said nothing to my wife about the fact that this young man was Ron Tammen. I was sure it was him.”

After finishing dinner, Stephenson said he and his wife walked out of the hotel onto the street. He then told his wife. At her urging, they went back inside, but the men, one of whom Stephenson thought to be Ron Tammen, were gone. There was no trace of them in the lobby or anywhere else.

Thanks to Joe’s clues, I have three criteria to narrow things down. I’d had the first two criteria for a while now. The third one is new.

  • The hotel had to have a restaurant that served dinners. This may seem like a no-brainer, but two of Wellsville’s five hotels weren’t serving regular meals.
  • The hotel had to be on the street.
  • The hotel had to have a lobby near its restaurant.

Regarding criterion #1: The Al-Ha-Mar Motel was a typical 1950s-style one-story motel in which all overnight guests had their own street-level entrance. They didn’t have a restaurant.

The Brunswick Hotel had a coffee shop and a bar. According to local historians, they weren’t serving meals then. So those two hotels can be ruled out.

Regarding criterion #2: The Hotel Wellsville was a stately old building about one mile north of the center of town on Main Street. It also had a restaurant. However, the hotel was set back away from the road, nestled among trees. For this reason, I don’t think it was the Hotel Wellsville.

Hotel Wellsville. Used with permission of the Allegany County Historical Society.

And finally, criterion #3. The Fassett Hotel was a striking red brick building with spectacular windows. They had a dining room that served breakfast, lunch, and dinner all week as well as Sunday afternoon. And importantly, the Fassett Hotel was right on North Main Street and had a lobby that owners made use of by frequently featuring the work of local artists.

The Fassett Hotel. Used with permission of the Allegany County Historical Society.
Pickup’s Hotel. Used with permission of the Allegany County Historical Society.

Pickup’s Hotel wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the Fassett, but it had a coffee shop, a cocktail lounge, and a dining room, where they served meals. It was also on North Main Street. What isn’t clear is if there was a hotel lobby near the dining area. If there was one, I don’t think it was big. A 1961 article on a fire that had broken out had said that “Principal business activity in the building centered around its restaurant on the ground floor.” 

Although it’s possible that Pickup’s Hotel was where Hi Stephenson saw Ron or Ron’s look-alike, I now strongly believe that the encounter happened at the Fassett Hotel. And doesn’t it sort of fit that, given a choice between a cobbled-together medley of wood, stone, and whatever else, and an elegant building of red brick, H.H. Stephenson and Ronald Tammen, Miamians through and through, would have been drawn to the latter?


Update 10/5/2022: Before posting the above write-up, I had emailed several historians from Allegany County to see if anyone had heard of an Adirondack Inn anywhere near there. Today, I heard back from Craig Braack, Allegany County’s official historian. Craig had asked a few local “old-timers” about a possible Adirondack Inn in Allegany County and no one knew a thing about it. This is one more piece of evidence that the Adirondack Inn was not the name of the hotel where Hi Stephenson thought he saw Ron Tammen.

19 thoughts on “Was Ron Tammen spotted by H.H. Stephenson at the Adirondack Inn?

  1. Interesting. I really believe he at least thought he saw Ron that night. The fact that he mentioned this to his wife outside and went back inside makes me think this. Now the hotel name of course could be off. Remember he’s traveling and probably saw numerous hotels along the way. It’s very possible that he just confused the name. Obviously some detective work based on his description of the hotel and its surroundings will have to be used to pinpoint the correct one.

  2. I sent an email from the Allegany Historical Society. Not much there, other than to confirm there was no Adirondack Inn. They raised the issue of whether it could possible be Wellsville Ohio under discussion, which I seriously doubt, but I’ll contact them to just to be thorough.

    1. Thanks for the follow-up! Yeah, I don’t think there’s any way that it was Wellsville, OH. Both Joe Cella and Phil Shriver agree on that point. We know for sure that Joe Cella had spoken with HI personally, and I’m 99 percent sure that Phil did as well. Definitely Wellsville, NY.

      I’ve heard back from a historian with the Thelma Rogers Genealogical and Historical Society recently and they could find nothing regarding an Adirondack Inn either. They mentioned Pickups and the Fassett. I’ve asked them a follow-up question about whether there was a hotel lobby on the first floor in Pickups, but haven’t heard back yet. At this point, I think the encounter likely happened in the Fassett Hotel, though we still don’t know if it was Ron or not.

      Thanks again for your help!

  3. This is so interesting, and nicely done on the research. I have to admit I always found Stephenson’s claim of a random Ron sighting at a vacation stop one of the flimsiest pieces of evidence, not only because of the unlikeliness of such a chance occurrence, but also because of the power of suggestion that seemed to have been possibly and implicitly involved. Why indeed did he hesitate to talk to “Ron” when he had the chance? It’s all so strange.

    1. Thank you so much! And I understand why you feel that way–I really do. But have you ever been away somewhere and run into someone you knew totally out of the blue? Once, I was at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle and I saw someone I knew from DC. It. Was. Crazy. So it can happen. Did I stare at him as if to stare right through him? Well, no. I was like OH MY GOSH, HOW ARE YOU? But still…😆

  4. This story always intrigues me. No matter how many times it’s told or presented. It’s just odd, mysterious, and downright spooky! Like Charlotte states above, I still believe there was some kind of hypnotic event taking place at that moment, whether it be Ron under its control or giving it to H.H. Stephenson with his intense gaze. And great work on researching other areas and locales for the Inn. I was getting the impression that maybe Hi was actually in another town and not Wellsville.

    1. Good to hear from you. That gazing part is really interesting…and it clearly stood out for Hi, since he discussed it with both Joe Cella and Phil Shriver. If it was Ron, perhaps he was in a hypnotic state at that moment. Maybe the whole table of men were in a trance. I’ve been told by people in the field that you can’t hypnotize someone by staring at them from across a room—that you need to speak to them to lull them into the trance as well as to give suggestions. But I’m trying to imagine how Hi would respond if he believed Ron Tammen was sitting a few tables away and staring intensely at him…staring through him. That’s intimidating. It might have been so intimidating and awkward that he didn’t respond at all. Just sat there in stunned silence, maybe waiting to see what Ron would do. Obviously, I don’t have the answer. But it is definitely weird.

  5. I emailed the Allegany Historical Society asking if such an establishment ever existed in their county. I’m pretty sure that the answer is no, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Probably just an error of the memory by Hi or Phil.

    I know you have a ton invested in this project, but I hope that you are 100% dedicated to this statement:

    “But please know that I’m open to other hypotheses depending on where the evidence takes us.”

    I think life is a search for truth, wherever that leads you.

    1. I agree with you. I’d checked with several historical contacts from that area, including the Allegany County Historical Society, but hadn’t heard back from anyone. Still, I felt I had enough info to go ahead with my post. But if one of my contacts writes back and says that there was an Adirondack Inn in or around Wellsville, I’ll definitely let readers know.

      As for my openness to other hypotheses, 12 1/2 years and counting tells you that I’m in it for the long haul. When I’m presented with evidence that refutes a hypothesis, I modify, adjust, or totally toss it. For example, remember how quickly I switched directions when I found the final summary for the Oral History Project? You were there. I literally stopped everyone from doing what they were doing based on the new information. I honestly thought I would be done barking up the Oral History Project tree once I received the three remaining unposted recordings. It was only after I hadn’t received the Miami Hockey Coaches recording after such a long wait (and I’m still waiting), that I began to suspect that the hockey coaches’ recording never existed and it may actually be of Carl Knox’s former secretary. But if I’m wrong, I’ll admit it and throw that idea out the window too. That’s how I roll.

      1. That’s great and I have found you to be unwavering in looking for truth. Nothing yet from the Historical Society.

  6. The Hi Stephenson sighting, more than any other single incident, convinced me that some sort of MK Ultra (I realize you’re not committed to that, but I think you think it might be in the mix) thing going on. Maybe Ron hypnotized Hi to not mention it to his wife. Hi knew Ron. To mention it to her in an excited whisper would have been as natural as saying out loud, “Ron, where’ve you been?” One of those moments you just don’t get back.

    1. Yeah, it’s so wild, isn’t it? Also, just fyi, I’m all in with the MKULTRA theory–I do believe that Ron’s psychology professor was lending his expertise in drugs and hypnosis to the ARTICHOKE program. My theory is that Ron was recruited by the CIA versus having something really bad happen to him. But please know that I’m open to other hypotheses depending on where the evidence takes us.

      I think what amazes me most about the Hi Stephenson sighting is that, from what I can tell, the university never followed up on it. One thing I didn’t say in this post is that I’m sure that Joe Cella asked Hi for the hotel’s name when he was writing his article in 1976. Joe didn’t print the name of the hotel because I’m sure Hi couldn’t remember it at that point. So Joe, an inquisitive reporter, likely had asked Hi for the hotel’s name, and of course Phil Shriver had asked Hi for the hotel’s name, but did Carl Knox? The fact that the university didn’t mention the sighting when it happened is more evidence that they didn’t want that lead to get out.

      1. Yes, always thought MK Ultra was involved, since I first heard of this story in one of David Paulides Missing 411 books, although the profile of this “missing person” doesn’t really fit the profiles he looks at in his books. However, David’s son, Ben, went to Miami U. around 2010 or so, on a hockey scholarship and David went to a lot of his hockey games. David was fascinated by the Ron Tammen story. Sadly, Ben, a talented film producer and hockey player, committed suicide in January 2021.

      2. Charlotte, Thank you so much for this. David Paulides does amazing work, and, although I never watched Ben play hockey, he was indeed a talented filmmaker.

        On a related note, I was in Oxford this afternoon doing Tammen-related research and I discovered something pretty huge. I’m pulling together backup data and I also plan to seek guidance, but keep an eye out. I was pretty thrown by what I learned today.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.