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:
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.
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:
By the time Wenger finally wrote to Switzer on December 1 saying “no can do,” I think Switzer had already moved on.
As most of you know, I’m a fan of Joe Cella’s. After everyone else had moved on with their lives regarding Ron Tammen’s disappearance, after they’d all shrugged their collective shoulders and resigned themselves to the notion that they’d never truly know what had happened to Tammen, Cella refused to join them. He continued working the case, steadfast and alone, until the August day in 1980 that he abruptly passed away at the young age of 59. Thirty years later, when I began my book project, I consulted Cella’s news articles for guidance. I’d hoped to pick up the story where he’d left off. I aspired to follow in his footsteps.
I’ve now come to believe that I’ve achieved my dream. Not only am I following in Joe’s footsteps, but I’m facing the same old obstructions, smokescreens, and pushback that Joe had encountered in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.
What’s more, when it comes to the Tammen case, I’ve discovered that if a person employs more than the minimal amount of stick-to-itiveness in their investigation, it won’t be long before they breach the space-time continuum and go hurtling back to the days of Joe.
Here are some examples:
When I read Joe’s assertion in the Hamilton Journal-News that school officials hadn’t been cooperative, I thought “Same.”
When I saw in the Dayton Daily News that he felt that the university tried to cover up the case, I thought “Omg, SAME.”
A few weeks ago, I discovered that the Miami University Alumni Association (MUAA) had written about Tammen’s disappearance on their blog known as Slant Talk. The post had been published online a year ago on October 30, 2020. For some reason, I’d missed it back then—2020 is such a blur. But early this month, I was searching a Tammen-related topic and up it popped.
I was bemused by their lack of new information. You and I have learned way more about the Tammen case than their write-up has indicated. All they had to do was Google “Ron Tammen” and they should have been able to find my blog. If they’d reached out to me—an alum who has dedicated a sizable chunk of her life to researching the Tammen case—I would have given them a nice quote. They didn’t even write about Butler County’s well-publicized reopened investigation in 2008.
That was such a long time ago. Could that have been the reason that they chose not to highlight my work, or was there another reason for the virtual snub?
At the bottom of their blog post is a comment made by a former friend of Ron’s from Fisher Hall. I recognized his name because I’d spoken with him early in my research. I’d also spoken with his roommate. He describes his memories searching for Ron as well as students’ mysterious encounters in the Formal Gardens after Ron had disappeared. It’s a moving sentiment.
The comment box is still open, so I decided to write a comment of my own. With as many followers as I’m sure MUAA has, I thought it would be a good way to talk about my project and steer people who have an interest in the Tammen story to my website.
Here’s what I wrote.
“Hi! I’m a 1980 Miami grad who has been researching the Tammen disappearance for nearly 12 years for a book project. I’ve been blogging about it too. I’ve discovered a lot of new information. Like…did you know that the FBI had Ron Tammen’s fingerprints when he disappeared and they expunged them in 2002, 30 years earlier than normal? You can read a lot more info here: https://ronaldtammen.com. Stop by!”
The comment made by Ron’s Fisher Hall friend was posted on November 1, 2020, two days after the blog was posted. My comment, which I’d submitted on October 8, 2021, is still awaiting moderation.
Two weeks later, I wrote to MUAA to see if perhaps there was something about my comment that they weren’t happy with. I wanted to let them know that I’d be open to submitting a new comment that fell within their guidelines. Here’s my email:
I’m a 1980 graduate and recurring donor to Miami University. Recently, I noticed that, in October 2020, your blog “Slant Talk” had discussed the disappearance of Ronald Tammen from Fisher Hall (https://miamialumniblog.com/2020/10/30/ron-tammen-where-are-you/). I’ve been researching Tammen’s disappearance for nearly 12 years for a book project, and have turned up some interesting findings. I submitted a comment to Slant Talk encouraging people to come to my website to read more about that topic, but after two weeks, my comment is still awaiting moderation. Is there a problem with my comment that I should adjust? It would be wonderful if MUAA would acknowledge the work of one of its own in helping solve this mystery.
Their bounce-back email said that they receive a lot of email traffic, and they would try to respond as soon as they were able. If I needed a more immediate answer, however, they provided a number to call.
Six days later, I’d still heard nothing, so I decided to call the number today. I identified myself and asked if they’d be approving my comment. I was informed that they would not. When I asked why not, the MUAA staffer told me that they had a policy not to direct their readers to other websites. When I asked if I could resubmit my comment without the URL, she responded (and I paraphrase here), “Was that on Ronald Tammen?” “Yes,” I said. She then told me that they’d already written a couple times on Ron Tammen and had no interest in writing anything more. “Interesting,” I think I said, and I told her to keep an eye out for my blog because I’d be discussing their blog post.
“Thank you,” said she. “You bet,” said I.
The internet can be a daunting place for people like me. Compared to an organization like Miami University, I’m small and insignificant. So when MUAA posts a generic piece on Ron Tammen, it’ll trounce my stuff every time. They have way more followers plus an IT team who is busy maximizing their SEO through meta tags and alt texts and all the other stuff I’m supposed to do but I’m not very knowledgeable about.
It’s OK though. When A Good Man Is Hard to Find winds up on page one of a Google search (we’re #2!) or DuckDuckGo search (we’re #1!) on “Ronald Tammen,” you can bet that it landed there based on the content (85 posts and counting!). The search engines are confident that if you click on one of my links, you’re going to learn something about Tammen.
Does Miami University want people to ignore my blog? All signs point to yes, though I don’t get it. No one alive today on or off campus had anything to do with Tammen’s disappearance. Why doesn’t the university want to help find the solution?
If they really wanted to know the answer to the question “Ron Tammen? Where are you?” they have a funny way of showing it.
On Friday, October 26, 1973, a calendar item appeared in the Miami Student announcing a talk to be delivered Halloween night. The speaker, Joe Cella, would be presenting at 8 p.m. in the Heritage Room of Miami’s former student center, now known as the Shriver Center. His presentation had been titled “The Ronald Tammen Disappearance.” There was no need for additional verbiage explaining who Ronald Tammen was or why anyone should care—everyone already knew.
Cella was the Hamilton Journal-News reporter who’d devoted decades to investigating Ron’s disappearance from Miami University in 1953. He’d intended to solve the mystery. He dug and he dug, until, quite probably, he’d made a nuisance of himself on Miami’s campus, at least in the minds of the administrators. If it hadn’t been for Joe Cella, some of the most significant clues of the case would have remained in faded notes and eroding memory banks.
In 1973, Cella had been on a roll. Earlier that year, he’d broken the story about Garret J. Boone, a family physician and Butler County coroner who’d said that Ron had walked into his office in Hamilton on November 19, 1952. (The article erroneously says the office was on Third Street, when it was actually located at 134 North Second Street. You can step inside that very building the next time you’re in or around Hamilton. Doc Boone’s old office is now a bar that features artisanal beer and live music.)
The reason for Ron’s visit was to request that his blood type be tested. Boone said he’d never received such an odd request in his 35 years of practice, and he’d asked Tammen why he needed to have his blood typed. Tammen responded, “I might have to give some blood one of these days.” Doc Boone was able to provide documentation to Cella—a medical record that included Ron’s name, address, and the date of Ron’s visit.
Cella’s fresh lead was published on April 23, 1973, for the 20th anniversary of Tammen’s disappearance, which had likely captured the attention of students serving on Miami University’s Program Board. Someone reached out to Cella to see if he’d be willing to give a talk on campus, and Joe said “sure.” Of course, they picked Halloween for the date of his talk. That’s when students always turned their thoughts to Tammen.
I mean DAYUMMM, you guys. Who among us wouldn’t have paid hundreds to hear that talk? I would have given my eye teeth, my “J” teeth, my “K” teeth, and my “LMNOP” teeth to get a chance to hear Joe Cella riffing verbatim on the Tammen case. The Heritage Room would have been packed to the rafters that night. Joe would have been fielding student questions way past his allotted time. But alas, it wasn’t to be. Something happened in the short time interval between Friday’s printed announcement and the following Tuesday that brought Joe’s talk to a grinding halt. In the next issue of the Miami Student—October 30th—this notice was published:
Joe Cella’s presentation on the “Ronald Tammen Disappearance” which was scheduled for October 31 has been cancelled. Cella, a news staff worker on the Hamilton Journal, has not received clearance from federal authorities to release material which he has acquired concerning the case. Cella has promised to present his material as part of a Program Board event pending receipt of such clearance.
“Hmmm,” thought I, when I first read the blurb.
Let me tell you a little something about practitioners of journalism, especially journalism of the investigative variety: we don’t wait around for permission to reveal something we’ve managed to dig up. We’ll protect our sources till death if need be, and we’ll protect people’s personal information too. Also, journalists who have somehow accessed classified information that could impact our national security have often elected to withhold that information for, you know, national security’s sake. But material on Ron Tammen? That seems like fair game to me.
So who put the kibosh on Cella’s talk? I doubt that it was the students who served on the Program Board. In 1973, Watergate was front-page news and the Vietnam War still had two more years before all U.S. troops had exited Saigon. Students were wary of feds in general—plus, what student wouldn’t want to hear the inside scoop on Tammen?
What about Cella? From what I’ve learned about him over the years, I’m sure there’s no way that he would have accepted a speaking gig and then, at the last minute, said that he needed to get an “all clear” from some federal agency before he could go public with the juicy tidbit he’d managed to get his hands on. Look at it this way: Can you imagine me calling the FBI and saying, “Hey, I’ve obtained a document stating that Ron Tammen’s fingerprints were expunged due to the Privacy Act or a court order. OK if I print that on my blog? If you could send me your blessing ASAP, I’d be so grateful.” Yeah, right. If you’ll recall, I posted that discovery within 24 hours of my learning it.
Also, how would Cella have obtained whatever he obtained? It’s difficult to say, since we don’t know what he had, but someone representing a federal agency had probably given it to him. And once that happens, boom. It becomes public information. No additional permission necessary.
That leaves us with Miami University administrators. Did Miami officials cancel Cella’s talk, and if so, why would they give two hoots about what Joe would be presenting that night and whether he’d obtained prior permission from “federal authorities”?
Before I address that question, let’s refer back to Cella’s article from April 23, 1973. Not only did we learn about Doc Boone’s visit from Tammen in November 1952 but we learned something else in that article: that Doc Boone had attempted to tell Miami officials about Tammen’s visit back in 1953 but he’d been summarily rebuffed.
“I offered this information (the medical file card contents) to local authorities at the time, but it was always discounted,” the article quoted him as saying. Also, “I discussed it in the past a number of times with two or three persons associated with Miami University, but they didn’t want to discuss the case.” And this: “I feel I definitely got the brush-off.” And then: “As I said before, I offered the information but they didn’t care to listen or pursue it. So I just put the card away and forgot about it.” And finally: “Maybe this information could have been valuable then. I was upset because I was given the run-around by the school.”
Terms like brush-off and run-around aren’t the sorts of things a university likes to read about itself, and the article had indeed been noticed on Miami’s campus. Affixed to the back of the article in University Archives is a note with the letterhead of the Office of Public Information, which was under the direction of Robert T. Howard. Howard had succeeded Gilson Wright in leading Miami’s News Bureau in 1956, and in 1960, he was promoted to director of the Office of Public Information.
The quasi-mocking note says:
Who’s left for him to scold but thee and me?
Based on the letterhead, I believe the note was written by Robert T. Howard. I’ve tried to determine who Paul is, and I’ll offer up my guess here: I think Robert Howard was writing to Paul Schumacher, the director of Miami University’s Health Service. There weren’t that many Pauls in high posts at Miami in 1973-74, and it seems that it would be on topic for Howard to write to the head of the health service over a fuming physician and his evidence of an off-site doctor’s visit by Tammen.
Several months later, that little flare-up would have still been fresh in the university’s mind, particularly in the mind of the person whose primary responsibility was to show the university in the best possible light, Bob Howard. As Howard was reading the October 26th issue of the Miami Student, sipping his coffee and pondering the fall weekend ahead, he probably had a mini-meltdown when he read who’d be coming to campus on Halloween night. As head of Miami’s Public Information Office, Howard oversaw media relations for the university. Managing Joe Cella would have certainly been within his job description.
Perhaps Howard was still stinging from Cella’s article about Doc Boone and decided that he wouldn’t be welcome on campus. If so, he might have called Joe to find out what he’d be talking about and made up the excuse that he’d need to obtain federal approval first, just to introduce a roadblock. Maybe.
Or could the request for clearance from federal authorities have reflected a degree of familiarity with Tammen’s case? Maybe Howard, who’d been working in communications for the university in various capacities since 1947, knew about the federal government’s involvement in Tammen’s disappearance. If so, he would have also known that the university wouldn’t want to anger the sorts of people who I believe were pulling the strings. Perhaps Howard told Cella to seek clearance to make sure the university didn’t stray from whatever marching orders they might have been given back in 1953. If the feds say it’s OK, then it’s OK with us too, Howard might have told Cella.
I have no idea what materials Joe Cella had in his possession from the federal government concerning Tammen. Cella’s sons weren’t able to shed light on that question and his Tammen file is long gone. Likewise, when I asked them if they could recall the Halloween of 1973 when their father’s university talk had been abruptly canceled, it didn’t ring any bells with them. I also contacted former student representatives of Miami’s 1973-74 Program Board and asked if they could recall the incident. Only one person responded and that person had no recollection of the Tammen program that had been canceled.
In 1977, Cella was interviewed by a reporter for the Dayton Daily News about his search for Tammen. He didn’t mention the government materials he’d had in his possession in 1973. Instead, the article says: “Cella said that federal agencies have refused to cooperate with him or Tammen’s family.” In addition, it said that he’d attempted to obtain Tammen’s records from the Social Security Administration but was refused.
This past week, I was in Oxford again, conducting more Tammen research, and I was standing in Miami’s Athletic Hall of Fame inside Millett Hall. There, among the photos of swimmers, wrestlers, football players, basketball players, and the like was a photo of Robert T. Howard, who’d been inducted in 1989 for his role in directing sports information.
So…who do you think canceled Joe’s Halloween talk in 1973?
As for the year 2021, Happy Halloween to all who celebrate! 🎃
Good evening, dear AGMIHTF readers. Tonight I’ll be dropping three historic documents for your perusal. Please be advised: the forthcoming document drop will not be answering any major questions. Rather, these documents are more corroborating in nature. But, hey, corroboration is a good thing too, right? In fact, imho, there’s nothing quite like a little corroboration to get the weekend off to a half-decent start.
Tonight’s documents have to do with Richard Delp. As I explained two blog posts ago (and for those of you who are keeping score at home, that was post #79. Can you believe we’re now at #81?!), Richard Delp was an assistant professor in psychology who, for whatever reason, was listed in the number two spot of three professors in Carl Knox’s notes concerning Ron Tammen’s disappearance.
Here’s a quick refresher from that post:
In October 1952, Richard Delp had been called onto the carpet by an unidentified supervisor, most likely department chair Everett Patten, to discuss his lack of a Ph.D., a crucial thing for someone in his position to have. He was given until the end of the 1953-54 academic year to finish his thesis, otherwise, his job would be in jeopardy.
In a follow-up report of the conversation, the supervisor described admonishing Delp thusly: “I pointed out to him that he was now in his third year as an assistant professor, that the probation period was from two to four years, and that if he didn’t have his Doctor’s degree by the end of 1953-54, the question of his retention might arise.”
For those of you who are still keeping score at home, the end of academic year 1953-54 would be sometime in late May or early June of 1954, depending on whether or not you’re counting finals week in your calculations. Therefore, Delp had been given roughly 20 months in which to double down on getting his doctorate degree. Twenty months sounds totally doable, but it’s not realistic. Since Delp had such a taxing teaching schedule, and since he was pursuing his degree at Ohio State, he did most of his graduate work in the summers. Essentially, he had one summer—the summer of 1953—to get everything done.
In academia, tenure is a prestigious perk that assures a professor that, unless they do something egregious, their job will always be safe. It’s a big deal. In order for Richard Delp to receive tenure, his nomination would have to be approved by the president of the university—who was Dr. John Millett—and the Board of Trustees, which met every year at the end of the spring semester. But at that level, the list is pretty much rubberstamped. The more in-depth conversations would have taken place earlier in the year with the provost, Dr. Clarence Kreger; the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Dr. W.E. Alderman; and of course, the chair of the psychology department, Dr. Everett Patten.
So I wondered: were university administrators a little more lenient back then? I don’t know much about Dean Alderman, but I’ve read about how Kreger operated, and he was legendarily tough as nails. It wasn’t a secret that he intimidated people—a lot—Everett Patten being one of those people. How could Patten have convinced Kreger that Delp should be rewarded with tenure when his job performance in 1954 was so lackluster and he still didn’t have his Ph.D.? Was the one-sheeter accurate? I mean, look at it. It’s a mimeographed form with notations hand-scrawled in ink or pencil lead. It hardly looks like an official document. However, I’d seen records on professors in other departments, and they had the same penned-in forms. It seemed to be factual, but I wanted to be sure.
I went back to the university. The Board of Trustees meetings are posted on Miami’s Digital Collections, so I located the one that seemed to be the most promising contender for granting Delp’s tenure: June 4, 1954. However, when I read the minutes, I discovered that the handouts containing the names of the employees who were being voted on weren’t included online. I submitted a public records request to Miami’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC), asking if they still had them, and if so, could I have a copy.
Yesterday, the OGC sent me a scanned copy of the handout.
Document #1: Board of Trustees handouts – June 4, 1954
Two things jumped out at me: Not only did Richard Delp indeed receive tenure on June 4, 1954 (see page 7), but he’d been on leave during the spring semester of that year as well (see page 1).
So it all boils down to this:
In October 1952, Richard Delp is warned that he has until the end of the 1953-54 academic year—by June 1954—to get his Ph.D., and he promises to ask his thesis adviser and others at Ohio State how he can do that.
Except for the year he took off from Miami to work full-time on his doctorate degree, Delp was mainly commuting to Ohio State during the summers to work on his Ph.D.
The only summer between October 1952 and June 1954 was the summer of 1953. But Delp didn’t register for graduate work at Ohio State that summer.
Also, he took time off from teaching during the spring of 1954, though we don’t know why. Perhaps he was writing his thesis, but, if so, he never defended it. He never registered for graduate work at Ohio State after summer 1951.
June 4, 1954, Richard Delp is approved for tenure by Miami’s Board of Trustees.
I may be wrong, but I think something happened between October 1952 (when Richard Delp was warned to get his Ph.D.) and June 1953 (when he should have been enrolled in graduate work at Ohio State) to make Richard Delp think that his position was safe with the Department of Psychology.
The other two documents I’m dropping tonight were written in August 1956, when Richard Delp was invited to sit on the Men’s Disciplinary Board, a board by which male students who veered outside the university’s rules were dealt with accordingly. Delp felt conflicted about sitting on the board, and he wrote to Kreger to explain why. Mainly, it was because Delp had been informally counseling students and he felt that assuming the two roles—informal counselor and disciplinary board member—would be problematic.
Dr. Kreger was not pleased. The next day, he wrote Delp, telling him that he wasn’t aware that Delp was acting in that role, and adding: “If you have assumed a personal counseling function which is taking a sufficient amount of your time to interfere with intellectual growth and scholarly productivity, I think we ought to know about it.” In a postscript, he reminded Delp that any extra time should be devoted to working on his Ph.D. instead. Kreger invited Delp in for a meeting, though I don’t know if it took place. I do know that Delp served as a member of the Men’s Disciplinary Board for academic year 1956-57 and possibly the following year as well.
My point is this: Clarence Kreger was definitely not a softie and the fact that Delp still didn’t have his Ph.D. in 1956 did not escape his notice. I just wish I knew what convinced Kreger and all the others to nominate Delp for tenure in 1954.
Again, I’m just putting the question out there. If you have thoughts/comments/questions, please feel free to DM me or write email@example.com. Have a great weekend, everyone.
During the brief period in which Miami University officials were actively looking into Ronald Tammen’s disappearance, Carl Knox had written three names on a legal pad. The first name was Prof. Dennison, which makes total sense. J. Belden Dennison was a revered professor of finance at Miami in addition to being an academic adviser to students in the Business School, Ron included. If I were Carl Knox, I, too, would have reached out to Dennison—“Denny” as his colleagues liked to call him. Denny would have let Knox know about how Ron had been falling behind in his coursework that year. He would have been a little perplexed when Knox informed him that Ron’s psychology book was left open on his desk the evening of his disappearance.
“Are you sure it was his psychology book, Carl?” Denny might have asked.
“Hmmm. That’s weird,” Denny would probably say. “Tammen had dropped his psychology course just recently. I know because I signed his withdrawal slip.”
The third name on the list was Prof. Switzer, instructor of said psychology course. We’ve gotten to know Doc Switzer quite well over the years on this blog site. In fact, if he knew how many column-inches I’d be dedicating to his, um, extracurricular activities, I’m guessing the super-secretive Switzer would be rolling over in his grave right about now. (Sorry, Doc, but you fascinate me.)
It’s the second name on the list that we’ll be focusing on today: Prof. Delp.
In 1952-53, Richard T. Delp was an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. He, St. Clair Switzer, and Ted Perin, another Miami psychology professor who’d studied under Clark Hull, shared office space in room 118 of old Harrison Hall. I’ve mentioned earlier on this blog site that the inclusion of Delp’s name in the #2 position of Knox’s list is especially curious since Ron wasn’t taking a course from him. Why would Carl Knox think that Richard Delp could provide useful information concerning Ron Tammen?
Richard Delp was the consummate teacher. He loved to learn and he loved to teach. In fact, his zeal for learning made it somewhat difficult to pin down his area of expertise. As an undergraduate at Miami, he majored in psychology and sociology for his bachelor of arts degree, and the next year, he earned a bachelor of science degree in biology and English. As for biology, he especially enjoyed the flora and fauna of Ohio, and he seemed to get a lot of joy out of his farm on Morning Sun Road, where he would host picnics and lead groups of students on nature hikes. He built a cabin there for use by the local Boy Scouts, an organization he was active in for decades. A year after graduating with his B.S. degree, Delp earned his master’s, also from Miami, in education.
Delp’s academic career at Miami began in 1945-46, when he was hired by the English Department. (He taught recognition and code at the Naval School on campus for several months during WWII, although info is conflicting regarding the precise timeframe. Also, it was war-related so we’re not counting it here.) In 1946-47, he moved to the Department of Psychology, where Dr. Patten, the chair, probably felt incredibly fortunate to have found him. Throughout the war, the department had been chugging along on fumes as several faculty members had left their professorial posts to serve in the armed forces, including Switzer. After the war was over, the student population nearly doubled the next academic year, from 2345 to 4559. Courses in general psychology were back in high demand, jumping from 9 sections in 1945-46 to 22 in 1946-47. The department needed qualified people to teach heavy course loads throughout each day. Although Switzer had returned to Oxford, he wouldn’t be teaching for several more years as he was helping counsel returning veterans about possible career options. Richard Delp would have been a lifesaver to help carry some of the burden.
But there were aspects to academia that Delp struggled with, one of the main hurdles being the pursuit of a doctorate degree.
Currently, anyone who aspires to teach at a university generally progresses straight through their educational training, from undergraduate degree to doctorate, oftentimes earning a master’s degree along the way. He or she then performs post-doctoral research somewhere until finally landing a position as an assistant professor, usually somewhere else. It’s a long and arduous process, but essential. Having a doctorate is pretty much a prerequisite to getting your foot inside the door as a faculty member at a university.
That’s only the beginning. You’ve heard of the phrase “publish or perish”? It’s definitely a thing. As soon as a person is hired as an assistant professor, they have several years in which to publish as many papers as they can, plus do anything else to stand out among their peers: acquire grants, serve on university committees, accrue some grad students, hobnob at professional meetings, deliver presentations, take part in media interviews—establish themselves as an expert. They also have to teach a bunch of classes, which includes grading a ton of papers. A cake walk it is not.
After several years, the promotion and tenure committee holds a high-def magnifying lens to that person’s accomplishments and decides if they deserve to be promoted to associate professor. If the answer is yes, they’re usually granted tenure—job security—at roughly the same time, generally after a probationary period. An answer of no is tantamount to being fired, and they need to begin a job search. Of course the process by which an associate professor is promoted to full professor requires more of the above, although they’ll still have a job if they should be turned down since they already have tenure.
Back in Delp’s day, there was a little more wiggle room. A person holding a master’s degree might be hired as an instructor or even an assistant professor. Such new hires would be expected to work toward a higher degree, and Delp certainly worked toward his. After Patten hired him in 1946-47 as an instructor, Delp began taking graduate classes at The Ohio State University that summer. He continued doing so during the summers of ’48 and ‘49, and in 1949-50, he attended graduate school full-time, residing in Columbus. His research thesis was on student ratings of college instructors. When he returned to Oxford in 1950, he was promoted to assistant professor in psychology, which was accompanied by a nice pay raise. In the summer of ’51, he was back to commuting to Ohio State to work on his research.
However, he didn’t finish his dissertation. With no dissertation, there’s no Ph.D. And with no Ph.D., well…he probably shouldn’t have been teaching the courses he was teaching. The 1950 faculty manual stipulated for assistant professors “whose major responsibility is the teaching of academic classes, the doctor’s degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university shall be required.”
Can I just interject here that I feel for the guy? Spending nine months a year teaching hundreds of students and grading thousands of papers and then taking time off during the summer months to take graduate classes—which he excelled at—and conduct research sounds like a hard life with no let-up. By 1952, he didn’t do anything more toward his degree at Ohio State, according to his transcripts. Goodbye, Columbus.
On October 15, 1952, someone in a position of authority—I’m guessing it was Patten—had a sit-down with Delp to discuss his situation. The supervisor reminded Delp that his probationary period as an assistant professor was nearing an end and if he didn’t have his Ph.D. “by the end of 1953-54, the question of his retention might arise.” Delp vowed to discuss the matter with the folks at Ohio State and to work out a plan to “finish for his degree” by 1954. To soften the tone of his write-up, the supervisor added in the last paragraph that Delp was extremely busy with teaching and that “he seems to be happy with the work which he is doing with the Business students…,” though the supervisor doesn’t specify what work Delp was doing.
As we all know, the next semester, Ron Tammen, a sophomore business student at Miami, went missing, and Delp’s name as well as that of his office mate, St. Clair Switzer, who taught Tammen’s General Psychology course, were jotted down in Carl Knox’s notes.
The year 1954 came and went, and Delp still hadn’t made headway toward his doctoral degree. A review of his accomplishments for January 1, 1954–June 1, 1955 shows none of the activities expected of someone in his position. Other than joining several professional organizations—paying his dues, basically—his form is mostly left blank. (Inexplicably, activities for subsequent years were written into the space for the last question.)
You might think that it would have been the end of the line for him. With no Ph.D. and no publications or any other accomplishments to speak of other than teaching, you’d think that the year 1954 would have been his last in the psychology department. But you’d be mistaken.
In 1954, Richard Delp was granted “indefinite tenure” according to his administrative one-sheeter, though he remained an assistant professor. He also received sizable pay increases for that year and the succeeding year, which are difficult to explain based on his 1954-55 progress review form.
The 1950 faculty manual defined tenure as “a means to certain ends, specifically: (1) Freedom of teaching and research and of extra-mural activities, and (2) A sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability.”
Despite being granted tenure, Richard Delp resigned from his position in psychology in 1961, shortly before Switzer was named department chair. In her book “Eighty Year of Psychology at Miami,” Fern Patten said that it was for health reasons. Two years later, he would be hired by the School of Education, where he would receive accolades as an outstanding professor.
But my question is this: what happened between October 1952, when a supervisor was warning Delp about his precarious academic position, and academic year 1953-1954, when he received the first of two big pay increases, not to mention indefinite tenure, which was awarded in 1954?
I’m only asking the question, guys. There may be a perfectly good explanation.
Salary progression during time in the Psychology Department
I’ll be turning comments off for this one. I am continuing to seek documents that could help address my question. If you have thoughts on this topic or if you happen to have additional information, feel free to DM me on Facebook or Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests for anonymity will be honored.
As a postscript, it’s hard to believe that a year has passed since we lost Marcia Tammen, who passed away on August 31, 2020. We miss her so much, and in her memory and honor, we will continue seeking evidence that may one day tell us what happened to her brother Ron.
In my recent Facebook post, I describe a newly released document that appears to be written to Griffith Wynne Williams, a hypnosis expert who’d studied under Clark Hull at the University of Wisconsin. Williams and St. Clair Switzer (Ronald Tammen’s psychology professor) would have known one another pretty well back in the day. They were graduate students under Hull at the same time, with Williams receiving his Ph.D. in 1929, the same year that Switzer earned his master’s degree. I’ve brought up Williams’ name before on this blogsite. I believe he’s the third person mentioned in our March 25, 1952, memo, along with Hull and Switzer.
In this newly discovered letter—dated December 6, 1956—the writer mentions the recipient’s workplace, Rutgers, a revelation that somehow escaped the CIA’s black pen. I know of exactly one hypnosis expert from Rutgers during that era. Griffith Wynne Williams.
December 6, 1956 letter
After reading more documents on The Black Vault from that general time period, not only am I even more convinced that the recipient was Williams, but I also believe that the letter writer was St. Clair Switzer. I also think that at the time that he was writing the letter, Switzer was on sabbatical and working with…
wait for it…
Louis Jolyon (Jolly) West.
Those are some bold assertions, I know, but I have evidence. Let’s do it this way: I’ll present two additional documents that I’ve found on The Black Vault website, one that was released in 2018 and the other that had been available on CD-ROM but that has gained new significance now that we know about the two letters. After each document, I’ll submit my arguments for why I’ve reached the above conclusions. Here we go.
February 8, 1957 letter
This letter is from the same person as before, and its recipient is also Griffith Williams. I’m 100 percent confident that it’s Williams because the letter writer refers to the recipient’s recent “attack of arthritis.” Williams had a long history with rheumatoid arthritis. Also, Williams was a respected hypnosis researcher who frequently demonstrated hypnotic phenomena before large audiences. In 1947, he hypnotized members of a theater troupe between the first and second acts to see if it might improve their acting ability, a stunt that brought him national attention. The topics of discussion in both letters were right up Williams’ alley.
Because this letter is tougher to read, I’m including the verbiage here:
8 February 1957
We were delighted to receive your most interesting letter of 22 January 1957. Sorry to hear of the attack of arthritis and we hope that it is better now. [BLANK] and I have gone over your material and suggestions and find them very useful.
The problem of the use of hypnosis by a public speaker or some related technique which could be used by an individual to control or influence a crowd is of considerable importance and as you have noted there is very little information along these lines anywhere. This area is particularly interesting to [BLANK]. He told me that he will obtain [BLANK’S] book immediately.
Your comments concerning the possibility of making the subjects do something against their ethics or religious convictions were also extremely interesting. Unfortunately, these single tests, without proper conditioning or properly building a background are not too valid. In general, your examples cover most of the experience in the field. However, the next time we see you we will tell you of some unusual work and results with which we are familiar. I found your reaction to the carotid artery technique interests me. Some people insist the technique is very dangerous and your reactions convinced me that this area could stand a great deal of work. I have not tried the technique myself but have been present when it has been done. There is some debate as to whether or not this is true hypnosis or a coma-like condition produced as a result of pressure on the artery. I’ll have to start looking for volunteers.
The rest of your suggestions and ideas are very worthwhile. As I said before I hope to discuss them with you in the near future at some greater length.
[BLANK] and I know that you are very busy what with teaching and the special work you do for the [BLANK]. We were, however, very impressed with you [sic] honesty in this field and the fact that you were willing to spend some of your valuable time with us. Sometime in the near future we will get in touch with you and try to arrange it so that our visit will not interfere with any school work or other work you may be doing. I am very much in favor of informal discussions in this [field?] at some quiet spot and perhaps we can arrange it so that you could come to the local hotel and have dinner with us and talk later.
While I know it is unnecessary for me to again caution you concerning the highly sensitive nature of this material, I will ask you to destroy this letter when you have read it.
With kindest personal regards.
Why I think St. Clair Switzer wrote the 1956 and 1957 letters
My dear BLANK
The opening to the 1956 letter, “My dear BLANK,” is pure Clark Hull. I have dozens of Hull’s letters to both Switzer and Everett Patten, Miami’s longtime department chair in psychology, and nearly every single one of them opens with that phrase. It’s cute and endearing. I think Switzer seemed to like it too. He would use it from time to time, depending on the stature of the recipient and his relationship with them. He used it in a letter to Miami University President Upham in 1936. Because he was writing to a fellow Hull student, he probably thought it would be a nice reminder of their former mentor, who’d passed away in 1952.
His use of telltale vocabulary words
In the 1956 letter, after the list of topics, the letter writer says “We grant that the above list is long and that any item individually could well deserve a Ph.D. thesis…”. In my experience, these are the words of someone who holds a doctoral degree. The general public frequently calls the product of someone’s doctoral research a dissertation. But among doctoral degree holders, they’ll frequently refer to their dissertation as a Ph.D. thesis. These are the words of someone in academia.
A telltale vocabulary word in the February 1957 letter is the reference to “conditioning” when talking about a subject being made to do something against his or her ethics or religious convictions. Clark Hull was a behaviorist who felt that all human behavior could be defined through conditioned responses. Conditioning was part of Switzer’s academic upbringing, probably Williams’ too. Switzer’s first scientific paper was titled “Backward Conditioning of the Lid Reflex.” The czar of conditioning himself—Pavlov!—had requested a reprint of Switzer’s paper back in 1932, which was a major coup. Clark Hull’s (endearing) response was “I think that if Pavlov should ask for anything that I had done I should have some kind of seizure – I don’t know just what!”
The insecure tone
Switzer’s words are gracious and deferential, but also self-important, which isn’t an easy vibe to pull off. He would be obsequious to those he viewed as “better” or more knowledgeable than he was about a particular subject area or if he needed something, both of which I think applied to Williams.
As for his self-importance—his repeated cautionary words, his bragging about being privy to insider info—I view Switzer as an insecure academic. He published very little after he returned to Oxford from WWII and he didn’t maintain strong relationships with his academic peers outside of Oxford. Therefore, he seemed to bolster his self-esteem through his association with the military.
He was writing to an old associate from his glory days with Hull
Switzer wasn’t good at making friends with colleagues. He didn’t attend professional meetings. He didn’t go to departmental picnics. He rubbed people the wrong way, especially as he got older. Because he published very little, he probably wasn’t keeping up with the scientific literature either. So, here he is, ostensibly working on a “highly classified” hypnosis project with someone big, and they have some questions about what’s currently happening in the field. Who does this letter writer contact? A person Switzer used to know in grad school.
He was approved for a sabbatical for the 1956-57 academic year
In his 1957 letter to Williams, the letter writer talks about how busy Williams must be with teaching, which made me wonder: why isn’t this person also busy with teaching? He’s an academic too. As it so happens, Switzer had been approved for a sabbatical that year. Originally, he was planning to go to UCLA to work in the laboratory of Marion A. (Gus) Wenger. (Uncle Gus! Nah…no relation.) However, that fell through at the last minute when Gus decided to go to India to study yogis.
So what’s a guy to do? Say “oh well” and go back to his regular teaching schedule at Miami? Hardly. That sabbatical had been approved two years earlier by President Millett and if Switzer could get out of a year of teaching, he surely would. I’m certain his friends in the Air Force helped him find a replacement gig, which leads us to the third document.
A proposal for “Studies in the Military Application of Hypnotism: 1. The Hypnotic Messenger”
As I said before, even though this document was included on the original CD-ROM I’d received from the CIA, it takes on new relevance when juxtaposed with the two letters that weren’t available until 2018.
First, note that it was written just two days before the February 1957 letter. Second, the timeframe is rather, um, ambitious, shall we say? The proposal writer calls the development of a hypnotic messenger “uncomplicated” and claims that he and his associate should be able to complete their project by the end of the summer. That’s a special kind of arrogance. Third, there’s no meat to this proposal. People who oversee federal grants might be inclined to call this a “trust me” proposal, something that a researcher—particularly one who is well known in his or her field—might send to a funding source before the details have all been fleshed out. (Thankfully, funders of today can spot a “trust me” proposal a mile away, and they’ll send it back unfunded.) But this proposal writer appears to be saying: “Hey, you guys, it’s me here. You know I can do the work. Heck, I have a couple other projects waiting in the wings that are MUCH harder. Can I expect the ten grand in the mail ASAP?” (In today’s money, that’s a little over $97,000.)
Why I think Jolly West was the proposal writer and St. Clair Switzer was his associate
Both West and Switzer are military officers in academia who have expertise in hypnosis. I don’t believe there would have been a large number of people meeting these qualifications back then.
The proposal writer seems to be a big deal. His cover letter is relatively informal, as if he’s on a first-name basis with the recipient. His tone isn’t the least bit deferential. They appear to have an “ask and you shall receive” sort of relationship.
The proposal writer’s cover letter also mentions a man he is fortunate to have with him “this year” who is “thoroughly familiar with hypnotism at the theoretical level.” That sounds a lot like St. Clair Switzer to me. The reference to his knowledge of hypnosis theory could certainly be attributed to his experimental work for Clark Hull’s 1933 book, Hypnosis and Suggestibility: An Experimental Approach.
On the last page, the proposal writer makes the point that both the principal investigator and his associate are academics and the work needs to be completed by summer. Guess when Switzer’s sabbatical likely ends?
West was well known to the CIA at that point. He’d communicated with Sidney Gottlieb, who headed the CIA’s MKULTRA program, about hypnosis research since at least 1953. He had other projects going on too—including his USAF study of interrogation tactics used on POWs during the Korean War and his MKULTRA Research, Subproject 43, “Psychophysiological Studies of Hypnosis and Suggestibility.”
The proposal states that volunteers would be recruited from military personnel as opposed to college students. West, who’d concluded his detail at Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio, in June 1956 and was now at the University of Oklahoma, had easy access to both demographic groups.
In March 1957 West had been given a SECRET security clearance for his POW interrogation research and, according to author Colin A. West, he held a TOP SECRET clearance for his work on Subproject 43. This could certainly explain why the letter writer referred to the information as “highly classified” and insisted that the letters be destroyed after they’d been read.
Since 2019, this blog has been waiting for confirmation on two CIA documents to help prove our theory: a March 25, 1952, memo that I believe recommends St. Clair Switzer and Griffith W. Williams as consultants in their hypnosis studies, and a January 14, 1953, memo that I believe recommends Major Louis J. West and the Lt. Colonel Switzer to lead a “well-balanced interrogation research center” for Project ARTICHOKE. Judging by the contents of these three documents, I don’t think our waiting is going to be in vain.
MANY THANKS to TheBlackVault.com for doing the hard work and pursuing the documents that had been missing from the CIA’s earlier release!
Sigh. It would have been so unbelievably cool, wouldn’t it? To be able to say that a CIA Project Artichoke report was typed up on Doc Switzer’s typewriter—a 1947 Smith Crappola, I’m guessing—with its wayward y’s and c’s and capital R’s, would have been too, too cool. A smoking typewriter could have saved this girl a lot of additional sweat and heartache and saved you all from having to read any more 3,000-word blog posts. (Oh, relax. This one’s shorter.) It would have been time for the party planning to begin because we would have attained our goal. Because, you guys, we’ll probably never know for sure what happened to Ron Tammen. The only thing we can probably hope to know is whether St. Clair Switzer indeed had CIA ties. And if the CIA was anywhere near Tammen during the second semester of 1952-53, then they made Tammen disappear. Plain and Simple.
But the report that had been written for the Psychological Strategy Board on September 5, 1952, wasn’t written on St. Clair Switzer’s typewriter. We know this because a forensic document examiner compared the three surviving pages of that report to a job application and letters that Switzer had typed up in 1951. She’s certain that they came from different typewriters, and now, so am I.
In the world of forensic document examination, a questioned document (Q) is compared to a known document (K) to see if they came from the same source. In our case, the Q is the 1952 Project Artichoke report and the K is Switzer’s job application and letters. Our examiner, Karen Nobles, concentrated on the typefaces of the two documents to arrive at her conclusion, and the evidence is compelling.
Here’s what she found:
the uppercase M: the center does not extend to the baseline on the questioned (Q) text, but does extend to the baseline in the known (K) text
the number 2 has a flat base on the Q, but a curvy base in the K
the bottom of the number 3 extends downward in the Q, but curves up in the K; the top of the 3 in the Q is rounded and in the K it is flat
the number 4 in the Q has an open top, but in the K it is closed
the number 5 in the Q has a flag on the top that extends upward and the bottom bowl extends downward; in the K the number 5 is flat on top and curves upward in the bottom bowl
the top of the number 6 extends upward in the Q, but in the K it curves downward and has a ball ending
the number seven may or may not have a downward extension on the top left in the Q but in the K, the 7 has a significant downward extension
the number 8 is much narrower in the Q than in the K
the number 9 extends downward in the Q, but curves upward and has a ball ending in the K
She also created this chart that shows the above differences in the numbers and letters:
So the report wasn’t typed on Switzer’s typewriter after all—OK, fine. That doesn’t mean that Switzer wasn’t on the RDB’s ad hoc committee or even that he didn’t write the report. It only means that our job isn’t over and we need to keep searching for clues.
You know what’s really hard? Trying to figure out the precise way in which something happened nearly 70 years ago is really hard. I mean, you find a couple memos that are riddled with black blotches, you hear a few tales from way back when, you stumble upon several additional details that seem apropos of the situation, and all of the sudden, you think you know how everything went down. But do you know what else can happen? Nuances can happen—like the Sliding Doors phenomenon, where things play out wildly differently depending on whether Gwyneth Paltrow makes the subway or just misses it, or when a butterfly in Zimbabwe flaps its wings and causes a hurricane in south Texas…those sorts of unpredictables.
The question we’ll be delving into today is what’s the most likely way in which St. Clair Switzer, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves and Ron Tammen’s psychology professor, wound up dabbling in Project Artichoke?
Here’s the sequence of events as I initially pictured them:
On Tuesday, February 12, 1952, Morse Allen, a career CIA guy, went bounding off to his job in the Office of Security. He was super stoked about what he’d been tasked to do, which was to handle all the day-to-day operations in pursuit of controlling the minds of the nation’s and world’s citizenry—or at least certain unlucky members thereof.
On that particular morning, between 10:20 and 11:45 to be exact, he was on the receiving end of an earful from one Commander Robert J. (R.J.) Williams. Williams was in the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence and he was the project coordinator for Artichoke. He was also frustrated with how things were progressing. At the top of Williams’ wish list was a cadre of scientists with whom to consult who had expertise in the latest and greatest of a wide range of possible Artichoke techniques. Meanwhile, Allen and the crowd he ran with had been tinkering with only two of them: hypnosis and truth drugs.
On March 25, in response to R.J.’s concerns, Allen typed up a memo describing a conversation he’d recently had with one of the foremost experts in hypnosis. This was no stage act hypnotist, mind you. He’d spoken with the big kahuna himself—Clark Hull, a renowned psychologist and academician who’d written the seminal book on hypnosis, Hypnosis and Suggestibility: An Experimental Approach. Alas, Hull was old (he was only 68, but they wore their ages differently back then) and sickly (he died a little over six weeks later). What’s more, he had absolutely zero interest in hypnosis after he’d published his book.
My guess is that it was during this conversation or maybe in a follow-up, after he’d given it some thought, that Hull had passed along to Allen the names of two of his top protégées as possible resources for the CIA’s hypnosis studies. In his third and fourth paragraphs, Allen tells R.J. about the two promising experts, who were by then psychology professors in their own right. Although their names have been redacted, they were St. Clair Switzer (I’m 100% positive), at Miami University, and Griffith Wynne Williams (I’m pretty sure), at Rutgers. Switzer’s added bonus was that he’d been a pharmacist before he studied psychology, which means that he also happened to know a lot about drugs.
What happened next was where I relied on logic and intuition. I figured that Switzer was probably contacted by someone with the CIA, because, by fall, he appeared to be embarking on some sort of hypnosis study or studies on Miami’s campus. There were students being recruited on the front lawn of Fisher Hall that September for a hypnosis project coordinated by the psychology department. Three Ohio youths had wandered off with amnesia around that time and then, happily, returned. One psychology student was told by the department chair that Ron Tammen had a proneness to dissociation. Things were happening in Oxford that appeared to be relevant.
Nevertheless, the evidence was admittedly thin and some pieces didn’t quite fit. For example, I’ve often wondered what research questions concerning hypnosis Dr. Switzer was pursuing at that time. His name has never been linked with CIA-sponsored research, such as the MKULTRA subprojects, which came later, beginning in April 1953. What could the CIA have been asking of him beginning in the spring of 1952?
As it happens, I no longer think that Dr. Switzer received a call from the CIA in March 1952. In my revised screenplay, there was no “Allen Dulles is on line two” defining moment.
I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t we still talking about Project Artichoke? If not the CIA, then who?
Me: You guys, I think Dr. Switzer was approached by someone with the RDB.
Me:. You know, the RDB? Short for the Research and Development Board?
You make an excellent point. The name is so nothing. So benign. So deadly dull. But that’s deceptive. The RDB was the research arm of the Department of Defense (DoD), created through the National Security Act of 1947 to coordinate the military’s research endeavors. On the DoD’s 1952 organizational chart, the RDB was on the same level as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both of which answered directly to the Secretary of Defense, who happened to be Robert A. Lovett.
In order to make its important research and development decisions, the RDB would oversee expert committees and panels, which, in the spring of 1950, involved some 1500 people, mostly volunteers. (The volunteers would have been experts who were already paid a salary by their military or civilian employers, and it would have been considered an honor to serve.) By the mid-1950s, the RDB’s permanent full-time staff totaled 315. To spell it out as simply as possible, OMG, the RDB was a BFD.
At the top of the RDB sat seven people: a civilian chairperson, who in 1952 was Walter G. Whitman, head of MIT’s chemical engineering department. The other six posts were held by members of the military’s three branches: Army, Navy, and Air Force. In 1948, the two Air Force representatives were Joseph T. McNarney, commanding general of Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and L.C. Craigie, director of the Research and Development Office, who relocated to Wright Patterson AFB in September as commandant of the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology. Hence, both of the Air Force reps were with Wright Patt that year.
In 1949, Karl Compton, another MIT dignitary, chaired the RDB. The Air Force was represented by McNarney again, as well as Donald L. Putt, then stationed in Washington, DC, as deputy chief of staff for materiel, which is military-speak for supplies, equipment, and weapons—everything the military buys. Putt was from Sugarcreek, OH, also called “Little Switzerland of Ohio,” which is home to the “World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock.”
Putt was also a longtime friend of Wright Patterson AFB. He started at Wright Field as a test pilot, then as a student at the Air Corps Engineering School, and following WWII, he headed intelligence for the Air Technical Service Command and later, the Engineering Division. In 1952, the two Air Force representatives were Roswell Gilpatric, the undersecretary of the Air Force, and Putt, who was working concurrently as a vice commander of the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in Baltimore as well as commander of the Wright Air Development Center (WADC), at, you guessed it, Wright Patt.
So Wright Patterson was well known among the bigwigs of the RDB. But that makes perfect sense since Wright Patterson was at the center of research and development for the Air Force. R&D was Wright Patt’s jam.
But let’s get back to R.J. Williams, coordinator of Project Artichoke. A couple weeks before he and Morse Allen had their tête-á-tête, a memo dated January 28, 1952, had been drafted by the OSI for the signature of Allen Dulles, who was deputy director of central intelligence at that time. The memo was written to the secretary of defense asking for help with Project Artichoke. The OSI was seeking the assistance of the RDB, and suggested one of its ongoing committees, the Committee on Medical Sciences, to tackle an overriding problem. The problem was defined as: “Whether or not, and to what extent, any agent or procedure can be used to cause an individual to become subservient to an imposed control; and subsequently that individual be unaware of the event.” They were especially interested in discovering the feasibility of such methods because it was rumored that the Soviets were already using such tactics in their interrogations.
I don’t know if the January 28 memo was ever sent. However, on March 7, another memo was drafted, this one asking the director of central intelligence (Walter Bedell Smith) to seek technical assistance directly from the chairman of the RDB (Walter G. Whitman) regarding the “problem.”
At a meeting on March 12, Whitman told a small group of individuals (whose names are all redacted) that the RDB “will be pleased to undertake the study as requested and feel that it is something they should be doing.” However, he also said that he’d rather not put his acceptance in writing “if this conference could be considered as confirming his acceptance of the responsibility.” Whitman also said that he’d rather not use his Medical Sciences committee for such a task, but would prefer to assign the problem to an ad hoc committee.
On March 25, Allen wrote his memo to R.J. offering up the names of St. Clair Switzer (for sure) and Griffith Wynne Williams (maybe). Of special note is this partial sentence: “…his two principal research assistants are still active in psychology and would prove particularly valuable as consultants on a research project on hypnotism.”
I’ve probably read that memo a thousand times, and for 999 of those times, I was thinking much more broadly about the “research project on hypnotism.” I thought he was speaking about Project Artichoke in general, like: “Hey, if you want an expert on hypnosis to consult at some point, here are a couple good prospects.” Now, based on the events leading up to this memo, I think that Allen was suggesting the names of St. Clair Switzer and Griffith Williams for the RDB’s study.
A month later—April 26, 1952—R.J. wrote a 9-page memo to his boss, the assistant director of Scientific Intelligence, bringing him up to speed on Artichoke. Under the subhead “New items uncovered,” he discussed the RDB study, which the OSI would be monitoring:
“As an alternate measure to provide the best possible professional advice for the project, the Research and Development Board, at the request of the DCI, has undertaken a study of the technical feasibility of Artichoke-type techniques. Although the Study is designed ostensibly to provide CIA with a better basis for evaluating Soviet capabilities in this field, it can be useful in evaluating and guiding our own program. The committee members have been selected, and, subject to their availability and clearance, should be working on the subject in the near future.”
In May, the same memo was repurposed with the subject head “Special Interrogations,” and sent up the chain from the assistant director of OSI to Allen Dulles. Everyone was reassuring their bosses that things are being done in this area.
To be sure, there was a lot riding on the RDB’s shoulders. Until the technical feasibility study was completed, the CIA wouldn’t be able to do much else toward Project Artichoke.
On June 4, a memo was written by someone affiliated with the military. (The 1100 and 1200 hours were the giveaways.) They wanted to expedite the “setting up of the special committee to study Special Interrogation techniques.” Because the special committee wouldn’t be able to start meeting until August, they agreed to set up an “executive group” from the ad hoc committee as well as perhaps another group. (Unfortunately, the names are blacked out, though I’m certain the ad hoc committee is one of the groups.) “This group could do the spadework and actually represent an action group in being, pending the arrival of [the ad hoc committee] in August, the memo’s author wrote.
Are you interested in knowing who served on the RDB ad hoc study group? Me too. Here you go.
Yeah…fun times. In August 2016, I submitted a FOIA request to the CIA asking them to lift the redactions on the list of names of their study group. (I mean…come on, right?) On April 10, 2019, their FOIA office wrote me back and said “Please be advised that we conducted a thorough and diligent search in an effort to locate a full-text version of the document but unfortunately were unsuccessful.”
In short: we have the blacked-out version, but we can’t find the version with the words on it.
Here’s what I wrote in my appeal:
“The classification and declassification of national security information is a highly regulated process, most currently outlined by Executive Order 13526. It is my understanding that MKULTRA documents that hadn’t been destroyed in 1973 underwent a declassification review and those documents were released digitally, in CD-ROM form, in 2004. It is also my understanding that the redactions are put in place during this declassification review. I find it inconceivable that a government employee charged with the critical responsibility of declassifying national security documents would be so sloppy and abusive in his or her handling of this information as to somehow misplace or destroy the original document, particularly given the CIA’s already embarrassing history with mishandling documents pertaining to MKULTRA. I also feel it necessary to remind you of the following statement, provided by Senator Edward Kennedy during the Joint Hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence on MKULTRA in August 1977:
The intelligence community of this Nation, which requires a shroud of secrecy in order to operate, has a very sacred trust from the American people. The CIA’s program of human experimentation of the fifties and sixties violated that trust. It was violated again on the day the bulk of the agency’s records were destroyed in 1973. It is violated each time a responsible official refuses to recollect the details of the program. The best safeguard against abuses in the future is a complete public accounting of the abuses of the past. [bold formatting added]”
Because we’re now nearing the two-year mark since they thanked me for my appeal and told me they’d get back to me, I gave them a call to see how things were going. (Of course I’m taking Covid into account, but two years is a long time, and I felt it was worth a check-in.) The person who answered took down my reference number, put me on hold for several minutes, and then returned to say, and I quote directly, “your case is still being worked on.” I’m pretty sure they’re waiting for me to die.
The ad hoc committee met four times in 1952—August 15, October 1, November 11, and December 9. They released their report on January 15, 1953, one day after the memo was written on “Interrogation Techniques,” the one in which I believe that Switzer and Louis Jolyon West are mentioned in paragraph 3 in setting up a “well-balanced interrogation research center.” The ad hoc produced a typical “more research needed” report, signed off by the people who conduct the research, thus ensuring job security for all concerned.
But there was another report produced by one of the RDB’s foot soldiers—on September 5, 1952—and one for which we only have a cover page, preface, and a table of contents. This report—referred to as the [BLANK] report—appears to have been passed around so much that they ran out of copies. It also had a bibliography, which the ad hoc committee report appears to lack. As the chief of the CIA’s technical branch wrote to the chief of their psychiatric division in May 1953: “We have just received this back after loaning it out sometime ago and since I promised to loan it to you, I am sending it with the understanding that, after you and your associates have finished reading it, you will return it to me since at the present time it is the only copy we have for our files.”
The report was produced with resources supplied by the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB), which was an elite group that reported to the National Security Council on topics pertaining to psychological operations. The same cast of characters in the upper echelons of the CIA and the Defense Department attended the PSB meetings along with the undersecretary of state.
Here’s the report’s preface:
Here’s the TOC:
You guys? I think St. Clair Switzer wrote this report. Why do I think so?
Based on Allen’s letter to R.J., I believe that Switzer was invited to sit on the ad hoc committee. In addition, two members of the committee were asked to start the ball rolling early as part of the “executive group,” as mentioned in the June 4 military memo.
The person who produced the PSB report appears to be addressing the very question the RDB was asking, so it pertains to the ad hoc committee’s charge.
The preface reeks of Switzer, who had the habit of brown-nosing his superiors while acting too busy to be bothered by everyone else. (Adorable.) He also minored in English, so he fancied himself a writer. The line “It has been possible to cover these large areas solely because of the great amount of valuable assistance, cheerfully given” sounds so much like the smarmy letters he wrote to President Upham and others who could help him climb the ladder. I doubt the national security adviser, the secretary of defense, and the CIA director cared one iota about how cheerfully assistance was given.
In his TOC, he leads with hypnosis. He follows with drugs. Those were his two favorite topics.
The author refers to himself as a consultant, which is how Allen described Switzer’s possible role in his March 25 memo to R.J.
The name that’s blacked out looks to be of the same length as Switzer.
Do I know why the report was produced by or for the PSB instead of the RDB? I don’t. But let’s look at it this way: the PSB was an interagency board that was above the RDB in rank, since it was established by President Truman. Also, one of the chief architects of the PSB was Sidney Souers, the first director of central intelligence, and a 1914 Miami graduate. Sidney was still an adviser to President Truman in 1952, and, though he didn’t sit on the PSB, it was his baby, so he kept close watch over it. Had he stepped in for some reason to assist?
This much we know: St. Clair Switzer’s name was advanced at a time when the CIA was seeking technical assistance from the RDB. R.J., eager to show progress, could have called RDB chair Walter G. Whitman straight away, saying that he had a couple nominees for their ad hoc committee. Whitman would have shared those names with his board members, at least one of whom would be very familiar with Switzer’s credentials.
Would Switzer have been eager to be involved? I have no doubt. Will I be asking the CIA to lift the redaction from the name at the bottom of the preface? Oh, you better believe it.
The floor is now open.
ADDENDUM:Supporting evidence that the author of the September 5, 1952, report was St. Clair Switzer
So sorry! That was rude of me to ask you to just trust me when I told you about how smarmy Switzer’s letters were to his superiors. I am now posting several letters that were either typed or handwritten by Doc Switzer to Alfred Upham, president of Miami University, or A.K. Morris, vice president of Miami. I include the letters in their entirety. If you have any questions about the who’s, where’s and why’s, feel free to ask. Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy the smarm.
I’m including Switzer’s letters to V.P. Morris because they also show how high up in the military he was during WWII. He had an office at the Pentagon and was in charge of placing servicemen at the end of the war. I think he enjoyed bragging to Morris about how truly important he was, as if to say “You’ll get me when the Air Forces say you’ll get me.”
And now, with a huge thank you to astute reader and commenter Stevie J, I attach some additional typing that was performed by Doc Switzer on his Miami U typewriter in 1951, one year before he would have produced the 9-5-52 report for the RDB (if it was Switzer, of course). Switzer filled out this application for a post at the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in Baltimore, for which he served from August to December 1951.
Among other anomalies, Stevie J has pointed out that, in the Preface of the report, “every lower case y is way left of center. Every single time.”
O.M.G.–the wayward ‘y’ that hugs its preceding letter. Do you see it? I’m freaking out. Freaking out on a Friday night. Pay special attention to the section at the bottom, under “Present Position,” especially the word Psychology.
What do you think? Is this the author of the 9-5-52 RDB report?
By now, you know that my aim is to post only truthful statements about the Ron Tammen case on this blog site. If I can’t provide supporting evidence—if the best I can do is speculate about some finding, for example—I’ll attempt to do so as transparently as possible, using the necessary qualifiers. That’s how we roll. Conversely, if I should discover I’ve jumped to a conclusion that is even the slightest bit untrue, it’s my belief that I should announce the correction loud and clear, and, if it’s significant enough, with fanfare.
So, you know how I’ve been harping on Carl Knox for writing that cryptic note regarding H.H. Stephenson? The note looks like this:
That H.H.S. note has always bothered me. Not only did Knox appear to ignore Stephenson’s possible Ron sighting when Stephenson returned from his vacay in Wellsville, NY, but it seemed as though, by only jotting down Stephenson’s initials, he didn’t want anyone else to find out about it.
Today, I’m announcing that it’s my strong belief that neither Carl Knox nor one of his assistants wrote that note in August 1953. My reason for thinking so has to do with the name that’s written above that note, on the same piece of paper. It’s the contact information for one James E. Larkins, who was then an associate professor at Wright State University. (The note erroneously says Larkins is affiliated with Wright-Patt.) I’ve blackened the phone number because I don’t know who owns it now, and, well, who needs to experience the fresh hell of having their phone number published online?
As it so happens, James (Jim) Larkins was a sophomore counselor in Fisher Hall with Ron, which is where he would have been in 1953, not teaching Spanish at Wright State. Therefore, the note had to have been written much later.
But when was it written, and why was it written, and who wrote it?
Here’s the timeline I’ve pieced together:
In November 1975, Larkins wrote a letter to Everett Lykins, who was Miami’s assistant dean of student life at that time. Although the letter is dated November 3, 1975, it’s stamped “RECEIVED” by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs on January 12, 1976. That seems late, but maybe the holidays had something to do with it.
In the letter, Larkins relays his experience regarding Ron’s disappearance, including a wild story about being shot at while trying to chase down the strange “phantom” voice that students occasionally heard after Tammen disappeared. Larkins also mentions Joe Maneri, who was the head of Fisher Hall at the time Ron disappeared.
As luck would have it, 1976 was a busy year in Tammen world. In April 1976, Joe Cella, reporter for the Hamilton Journal News, revealed that H.H. Stephenson, a housing official who had known Ron, believed he saw him on August 5, 1953, in Wellsville, NY. People first read about Stephenson’s encounter in Cella’s news article on April 18, 1976, and then heard the story straight out of Stephenson’s mouth in the Phantom of Oxford, which aired the next night, on the 23rd anniversary of Tammen’s disappearance. [Stephenson is in Part 2, at the 04:15 mark.]
You know who else was interviewed in the documentary? Jim Larkins. [Larkins is in Part 1, at the 08:30 mark.]
Here’s what I think happened:
Jim Larkins wrote his letter, which Dean Lykins likely received in January 1976.
Around that same time, Joe Cella and Channel 2 producer Ed Hart, who were collaborating on the Phantom of Oxford, probably contacted the university seeking spokespersons to be interviewed on camera. Dean Lykins might have said, “Hey, I have this letter. We could put them in touch with Jim Larkins and Joe Maneri.”
Someone then pulled together the contact info for both Larkins and Maneri, who worked at the Columbus Technical Institute at that time. This seems like a no-brainer, since the contact info for both men are written on similar pieces of paper in the same handwriting. Apparently, Jim Larkins said yes to the documentary, but Joe Maneri wasn’t able. (Unfortunately, both men are now deceased—Maneri in 2007 and Larkins in 2015. Although Maneri had already passed away by the time I began my research, I did have the opportunity to speak with Larkins.)
Meanwhile, Stephenson, who still worked in Housing at Miami and therefore answered to Dean Lykins, may have heard about the documentary project and stepped forward with his story about seeing Ron in Wellsville—first to Lykins, and then to Cella, or possibly vice versa. Even though the H.H.S. note isn’t in the same handwriting as the Larkins and Maneri notes, its position below the Larkins note indicates it was written during the same period in 1976.
But in 1976, Carl Knox was no longer at Miami. He’d left Oxford in 1959, so he couldn’t have been the H.H.S. note’s author.
What does all of this mean? In my view, the Larkins/Maneri/H.H.S. notes tell us a trifle more about how the Tammen saga played out over the years—nothing earth shattering, but something more to ponder during a pandemic on a Friday night. Still, two questions stand out. First, there’s this old chestnut: why did the note writer use Stephenson’s initials instead of writing out his full name? And now a new one: did Carl Knox do anything at all when Stephenson first told him about his encounter in Wellsville?
Joe Cella, the Hamilton Journal News reporter who never let the Tammen story die and who unearthed essential details about the case even decades later, would be turning 100 today if he were still alive. In April 1977, Joe was quoted in an article in the Dayton Daily News saying: “The university covered it up. They wouldn’t give you any answers.” On Joe’s centennial birthday, I thought it would be fitting to post some additional evidence that supports his cover-up theory.
For a long, long while, I used to believe that Miami University’s administrators and the Oxford PD didn’t have the slightest notion of what happened to Ron Tammen in the days following his disappearance. When they were quoted in the press bemoaning the lack of clues while actively ignoring, you know, actual clues, I just figured they were letting their inexperience show through. They were new at this, you guys. Cut ‘em some slack.
But then, as I discussed in my post “Proof of a cover-up,” it started appearing as if university administrators were purposely withholding key details. First and foremost: No one seemed to want the psychology book that was open on Tammen’s desk to make its way into a news article. Gilson Wright, the Miami journalism professor who also worked as a stringer for area papers, was how they conveniently managed to keep that info away from the interested public. Wright never mentioned the word psychology in any of his stories—ever—even though he would have known about the open textbook’s subject matter at the very latest by April 1954, when Joe Cella, of the Hamilton Journal News, introduced that detail into his one-year anniversary article. In the first 23 years of Tammen coverage, only two reporters—Cella and Murray Seeger, of the Cleveland Plain Dealer—ever mentioned the psychology book in their articles.
That discovery has led me to ask: what else was the university doing to keep details of the case away from the press, and—OK, I’ll say it—namely one member of the press? Although Seeger wrote a nice piece in 1956, he was primarily a political reporter for the Plain Dealerbefore moving on to bigger outlets, and he wasn’t keeping up with the story like Cella was. Cella was the only non-university-paid reporter who was following the story from the very beginning until 1976, and quite probably until his death in 1980.
Was the university doing anything to keep certain information out of Cella’s hands? For sure.
Last year, before Covid-19 reared its spikey little head, I was spending some time in Miami University’s Archives, and found something I didn’t recall seeing there before. Or, if I had seen it before, it didn’t seem nearly as significant as it does now. Tucked among a hodgepodge of Tammen-related news and magazine articles is an undated, unsourced, one-page sheet that appears innocent enough—a dishy “story behind the story” that someone had typed up on a computer. The font looks like Times New Roman and it was printed on a laser printer. The printer paper looks bright white, not yellowed with age. For these and a few other reasons, which I’ll be getting to in a moment, it appears to have been written fairly recently—long after I graduated from Miami in 1980 and certainly post-Cella. It could have been produced in the last 20 years, or perhaps even more recently than that. It’s too hard to tell.
The write-up has to do with an interview that was conducted with someone who worked for Carl Knox at the time that Ron Tammen disappeared. She was his secretary—that was her official job title—though the write-up refers to her as the “Assistant to the Dean of Men, Carl Knox.” (That’s another clue that the write-up was more recent: over the decades, the terms administrative assistant or administrative professional replaced the word secretary, with the professional association making the change only roughly 20 years ago, in the late 1990s and 2000.)
A sad, albeit surprising aspect of this story is that this person passed away only this year. What I’m driving at here is that it appears that someone who’d worked closely with Carl Knox when Ronald Tammen disappeared was interviewed by someone from the university relatively recently in my estimation, though I don’t know when or by whom. In Tammen world, this was the “get” of all gets. It would have been the closest thing to talking to Carl himself.
I’m not going to share the name of the assistant on this blog site out of respect for the family, who couldn’t recall ever hearing their mother comment on the Tammen case. But I will include the details that this person shared during her interview, which were typed up in bulleted format. The document reads as follows, with the only difference being that I’ve substituted “AD” (short for assistant to the dean) for the woman’s name:
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON RON TAMMEN, Jr.
From an interview with AD, Assistant to the Dean of Men, Carl Knox, at the time of Tammen’s disappearance on April 19, 1953
At the time, Hueston Woods held a work-camp for prisoners who were about to be released; they worked at clearing away brush from the future site of the lake. These prisoners assisted in the search for Ron Tammen.
AD’s office was across the hall from Dean Knox’s, with a bench across from her desk. After the disappearance, news reporters would sit on this bench awaiting any new information. On one occasion, AD called across the hall to Dean Knox that he had a telephone call from New York. Although the call had nothing to do with Ron Tammen, the reporters assumed it did, and this is how the rumor started that Tammen had been found in New York.
As a result of the false New York story (above), a buzzer was installed on AD’s desk so she could notify Dean Knox of his calls without calling out across the hall for the reporters to hear. She was also given a list of words that she should not say aloud in front of reporters.
After Fisher Hall was demolished in 1978, the wells and cisterns under the building were searched, since they had not been easy to search at the time of the disappearance. No signs of Ron Tammen, Jr. were found.
Before I begin dissecting the summary, please understand that I don’t think AD was in on every single convo surrounding the university’s investigation. Rather, in my view, her comments reflect what Dean Knox and perhaps others would have said to her. That’s what I’m commenting on—the words and actions of AD’s superiors based on her personal account. I’ll also add that the above summary is only someone’s interpretation of what she said during the interview. Unless we have the original transcript or recording, we can’t be sure that whoever wrote these notes did so with 100% accuracy. Plus, they may have left out some important details.
OK, let’s get to it:
1). The date of the interview
The author decided not to add his or her name to the summary, which is aggravating enough for someone like me who likes to contact people who know things about the Tammen case. But it would have been really helpful if they had thought to date it—either typed it in or scribbled it at the top to let us all know when it was written, and in turn, roughly when AD was interviewed. Instead, the first line is so confusing that it takes a couple reads to realize that they’re saying she was the “Assistant to the Dean of Men, Carl Knox, at the time of Tammen’s disappearance,” as opposed to being interviewed at that time, as one Miami staff member had speculated when I’d inquired about it. Based on the evidence I’ve described plus what I’m about to discuss—particularly regarding bullet #3 above—I’ve concluded that it’s a poorly worded phrase, and there’s simply no way the interview happened in 1953. It was later. We just don’t know how much later. I don’t want to get all conspiracy theory–minded on you this early in my blog post, but I mean…did they MEAN to throw us off by not dating it?
2). The work-camp prisoners
Yeah, yawn, we already knew about the prisoners. Good for them. Moving on.
3). The New York rumor
A couple weeks after Ron Tammen disappeared, a rumor had spread across campus about Tammen being spotted in New York. I’ve tried like crazy to find out what the rumor was—it was one of my standby questions for anyone I interviewed who was on campus at the time. No one with whom I spoke could recall the rumor. In fact the only other evidence I’ve had of the rumor was a May 8, 1953, editorial in the Miami Student (p. 2, top left) that stated that a rumor had been circulating that “…Tammen had been located, under conditions that were defamatory to his character.” But according to the same editorial, the rumor was started by an “enterprising student,” and the purpose was to see how fast it would spread. Other than that editorial, which chastised fellow students for disseminating the rumor in the first place (its title was “Must Tongues Wag”), no reporter ever mentioned the New York rumor in an article—not Joe Cella, not Gilson Wright, not even a student reporter.
As we all know, there was another possible New York connection to the Tammen story, though this one came several months later, in August 1953. Could housing official H.H. Stephenson’s potential Ron sighting in Wellsville, NY, have been the basis behind the phone call that Carl Knox had received? Perhaps Cella or Wright or someone else was in the vicinity when the call came in, and Knox was concerned that they’d heard something that he felt shouldn’t be made public. The only person who reported that potential sighting, however, was Cella in 1976, and that article was not based on a rumor or an overheard phone call. It was based on a conversation with H.H. Stephenson, who had worked directly for Carl Knox in 1953. (His title then was director of men’s housing and student employment.)
4). The bench across from her desk
The summary says that reporters—plural—used to sit on a bench across from AD’s desk waiting for updates. That’s rather hard to imagine, given the fact that there were so few clues to begin with and only two newspaper reporters who were covering the story from the beginning: Gilson Wright and Joe Cella. Wright, being a university employee, seemed to have an inside track with Carl Knox. Why would he have to sit on the bench waiting for updates? Besides, with all the university jobs he was juggling—teaching courses, advising student journalists, heading up the news bureau—he had other places to be.
Perhaps a Miami Student reporter had been occupying the bench. But students have classes to attend, and, moreover, there were no bylined Miami Student articles during the spring of 1953. Also, the early Student articles were similar to the articles Wright was submitting to area newspapers, which has led me to infer that Wright authored those as well.
That leaves Joe Cella, although I’m sure Joe was too busy to plant himself outside of Carl Knox’s office for hours on end. Besides, Joe’s best sources seemed to be the students and staff members who were closest to the action as opposed to seated behind a desk in Benton Hall.
As far as radio and TV coverage, there likely was some of that too, especially early on, though any trace of what was broadcast over the airwaves is gone. However, their reporting would have probably been bare-bones, with most of their info coming from Miami’s news bureau, courtesy of Gilson Wright and company. In short, I can’t imagine they’d be camped out either.
My hunch is that whoever was seated there when the New York phone call came in had set up an interview with Knox and was merely waiting…if a reporter was sitting there at all. More on that theory in a second.
5). The buzzer on her desk
Regardless of who was calling from New York and for what purpose, university administrators had clearly been shaken up about it—so much so that they decided to install a buzzer on AD’s desk.
For what it’s worth, the buzzer technology wouldn’t have been a huge technological feat in those days, according to two electrical engineers who weighed in after I put out a call for help on Facebook. (Thanks, Chris and Travis!) People have been ringing doorbells on a widespread basis since the early 1900s, which would basically accomplish the same thing—pressing a button and having it ring, or buzz, in another room with the aid of an electrical wire. (A similar concept is turning lights on and off using a button or toggle switch, connected to a light source by an electrical wire.) For this reason, AD’s buzzer would have been fairly simple for someone with that skill set to put together.
6). More on the bench, the buzzer, and the rumor
But seriously, you guys, how many reporters could there have been sitting on AD’s bench, day in and day out, and were they really creating such havoc around the office that it warranted instituting a secret buzzer system?
To be sure, a missing student is a very big deal. But installing a secret desk buzzer seems to be more like the act of someone who wants to play spy or top-secret government insider. Who were they protecting with their desk buzzer? Not Ron. Not the Tammen family. And honestly, so what if someone from the press overheard that Carl Knox had received a call from New York. No reporter worth his or her stripes would file a story based on that meager amount of info. They’d first ask Knox if the call pertained to Tammen, Knox would say no, and the potential misinformation would be squelched then and there, amIright?
I’m going to propose a different scenario: AD may have been told by Knox that her new buzzer system was because of reporters spreading the New York rumor—which, again, never made its way into newspapers—but I think it went beyond that. Remember that Carl Knox had jotted in his notes the name “Prof. Switzer,” Ron’s psychology professor who I believe was working for the CIA at the time Tammen disappeared. Switzer had even told one of my sources that he had indeed spoken with investigators at that time as well. What if Switzer had informed Carl Knox that Tammen’s disappearance involved a classified government program that’s important for protecting the nation’s security? Knox might have decided that a buzzer system would be a simple, effective way to do his patriotic duty. Incoming phone calls—from New York, D.C., or wherever—would be handled with utmost secrecy, no matter who happened to be standing nearby.
7). The list of words that she should not say aloud in front of reporters
OH. MY. LORD. Talk about burying a lede—this one got pushed to the tail end of bullet #3, after the work-camp prisoners but before the cisterns and wells.
Do you have any idea what I would give to know the words AD was instructed not to say in front of reporters? A lot. I would give a lot. Was one of the words “Switzer”? “Psychology”? “Hypnosis”? Or better yet “Post-hypnotic suggestion”? Or how about “MKULTRA” or “Project ARTICHOKE”? I mean, did AD’s interviewer think to ask the obvious follow-up question: What words were on the list? And if they did ask that question, why would they leave the most important part out of their summary page? Why indeed.
You guys, I’ve worked in several press offices in my career, and have fielded calls on topics that were considered political hot potatoes in their day. But I can’t think of a single time when I was instructed not to say certain words. Were they trying to protect Ron’s reputation? To avoid putting the university in an embarrassing light? Would the words have steered reporters too close to a probable cause for his disappearance? Whatever the reason, if the university was prohibiting the use of certain words to prevent a reporter from learning an inconvenient but potentially significant truth, that’s a cover-up.
Incidentally, I’m quite certain that AD would have never mentioned the forbidden words list back in 1953, when she was working for Carl Knox and the investigation was in full swing. That’s another reason that I feel that the interview was relatively recent.
One word that I’m pretty sure wasn’t on the forbidden list? Cisterns.
8). The cisterns
Speaking of cisterns, in part one (2:47) of the two-part segment on Ron Tammen last month from WXIX (Cincinnati), we were introduced to the concept of open cisterns on Miami’s campus by a Miami University spokesperson. Cisterns are generally described as large tanks that store water, though the cistern that was shown in the news segment was built in the 1800s and looked like a large open hole leading to a bricked-in area underground. I’ll tell you here and now, I had no idea that they were considered a safety problem back then. But I’m not sure students in those days felt that way either. If you type the search term “cistern” (singular) into the Miami Student digital archive for the time period of 1900 to 2020, two articles will pop up, one from 1903 and one from September 1986. The 1986 article discusses a cistern that the university had installed under Yager Stadium to conserve water when maintaining the athletic fields. The 1903 article was about a wrongly translated Latin passage and had nothing to do with cisterns on campus. The term “cisterns” (plural) yielded an article from 2000 about brick cisterns that were discovered during the construction of a park in uptown Oxford.
What AD said, however, was that they’d checked the wells and cisterns under Fisher Hall after the building was torn down in 1978 because they were difficult to get to. Of course, I don’t want to leave any stone unturned in my research, and that includes learning more about the university’s cisterns. Earlier this month, I emailed the spokesperson seeking background materials or a conversation on the topic, and so far, I haven’t heard back from him. I’ll keep you posted.
9). The full interview
Although the “Cliff Notes” version of AD’s interview is better than nothing, I really want to read the full transcript. Or better yet, I’d love to hear the recording. At the very least, I want to know when the interview was conducted and by whom so I can reach out to the interviewer for a conversation about all they remember that AD said, including, hopefully, at least one or two choice forbidden words.
I’ve reached out to senior administration officials for Miami University Libraries as well as Marketing and Communications, including the News Office, for assistance. Currently, the head of the libraries’ department that oversees Special Collections, Preservation and The University Archives is having his staff look for the source materials, though it may take a while due to Covid-19 restrictions. I’ll be touching base with them every so often for updates.
Here’s why I believe the university should still have the source materials: AD and her husband were well known, beloved figures at the university for many years. Although I still don’t know the reason behind the interview, it would make sense if someone had requested it for historical purposes. If that were the case, then tossing the original tape or transcript would be very, very strange, to put it mildly. I can’t say that that’s what happened at this point, but it’s a concern of mine.
Furthermore, as someone who believes in transparency in our public and governmental institutions, let me be transparent regarding my current thinking. In discussing the possibility of a university cover-up, I always gave the people in later administrations a pass. How could they have been privy to information that Carl Knox and his team were discussing off-the-record and in real time? If there was a cover-up, I used to think, it would have been the people who were making those judgment calls back then. Once they died, any evidence of wrongdoing would have died with them.
However, if someone who’d been around at that time briefed someone fairly recently, filling them in on forbidden words, for example, and any other pertinent intel from 1953, and if that interview was reduced to a few tamed-down bullet points and the original source materials were discarded to prevent someone like me from finding them? Well, the cover-up would live on. Is that what’s happening? I sincerely hope not. That’s why finding the source materials is so important.
I can only imagine what the late, great Joe Cella would say to me about the possibility of an ongoing cover-up. Probably something like: “Welcome to my world.” And then he’d add, “Keep on it.”
In light of the new revelations, I rewatched the 1976 documentary “The Phantom of Oxford” to listen again to what Carl Knox had to say 23 years after Tammen had disappeared. By then, Knox had moved to Boca Raton, Florida, and was serving as professor of education and vice president for student affairs at Florida Atlantic University.
In Part 1 (9:18), Knox briefly discusses Tammen having left his car behind with his bass inside, which is 100% true, but it doesn’t add anything to today’s topic. In Part 2 (2:40), he says this:
Carl Knox: In other campuses where I’ve been located, there have been disappearances, and there have been tragedies, but nothing which has sort of popped out of, no background of explanation, no way of reasonable anticipation, but just suddenly happening, and there you were with egg on your face, deep-felt concerns, and yet no answers for any part of it.
Ed Hart: And yet something tells you Ron Tammen is alive.
Carl Knox: Yes, I feel this. I feel it keenly.
Knox is believable in the interview, and his facial expressions could best be described as: deeply concerned, which is consistent with what he has to say. But, as we now know, there’s a lot of information concerning the university’s investigation that he’s chosen not to say here. Twenty-three years later, he has elected to keep his mouth shut—about open psychology books and dropped courses, about hypnosis studies, about three amnesiac Ohio youths, about Ron’s proneness to dissociation, about Dr. Switzer, about hidden buzzers and forbidden words.
In fact, the only time Carl Knox truly opens up about the case is in his last sentence. Knowing everything he knew back then, he keenly felt that Ron was alive—in 1953 as well as in 1976. And you know what? I keenly feel it too.
Happy holidays, everyone! Comments are now open. You’re also welcome to air a grievance or two (non-political please) in honor of Festivus, which also happens to be today.
Post-Christmas Post-Script(Dec. 27, 2020)
Hi, all! I’m back. I forgot to make a point in the above post that probably appears like a gaping, cistern-sized hole and it’s been eating at me. It concerns the fourth bullet point that discusses the cisterns and wells. There I was, offering up my reasoning regarding why the interview with AD couldn’t have been conducted in 1953, and I didn’t even bring up the fact that the fourth bullet discusses how they’d searched the cisterns and wells in 1978, when they tore down Fisher Hall. Did anyone else catch that? I mean, clearly, the interview occurred after 1978.
Sorry for the oversight!
I should also add that the same university rep who felt that the interview was conducted at the time of Tammen’s disappearance said that she didn’t think the fourth bullet was related to the interview with AD. But that’s not what the document says. The document says that the additional information was from the interview. So, it occurred after 1978, but, again, I think it was much more recent than that. I’m just hoping to find someone with the institutional memory to recall when the interview took place and with whom.