Putting Things Together (Discussion)

Ron Tammen wiring some cans together

Do you have a question or comment that’s more general in nature–something that extends beyond a specific blog post and synthesizes, extrapolates, and/or puts two and two together? Here’s a good place to write down these sorts of comments and questions.

Feel free to chime in!

48 thoughts on “Putting Things Together (Discussion)

  1. I have been re-reading through the threads. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot but I had a thought jump out at me and had to ask about it. I know we’ve discussed the whole bood typing thing Ron did. He was also seen leaving with a woman in a car.

    Given the rigid way his Dad was and given that he was embarrassed of his mother, maybe Ron had gotten a girl pregnant. That could be where his money was going. He knew his parents would not approve, would not be accepting and thus went off with the mother and his baby.

    There could be other factors also. Maybe the girl was “loose”, maybe she was way older than him, maybe she was a different race, a divorcee, etc. It certainly would explain why he worked so much but yet had little money.

    Then again, the girl in the car could have been a CIA operative.

    1. Thanks for these thoughts. The question about whether Ron had gotten a girl pregnant is probably the first theory I’d pursued when I started my research. And as I looked into it, reaching out to family members of one of the girls he’d dated during his freshman year, etc., it just seemed very unlikely. Truth is, Ron didn’t date girls that much…so little, in fact, that he felt the need to ask his brother John’s new wife’s younger sister–who attended a different school–to a spring dance 9 months away at a time when Ron had cut off ties with John and his wife. That tells me that Ron was stressing out about that dance and he didn’t envision having any dating prospects by the time it rolled around. He wasn’t interested in her romantically because they didn’t date that entire year. (I discuss the pregnancy issue, including the part about the blood test, in this blog post: https://ronaldtammen.com/2018/11/22/was-ronald-tammen-gay/.)

      But let’s delve into that question a little more because it still pops up from time to time. Let’s imagine that Ron did get someone pregnant. If he’d run away–either with or without her–he would have had to change his identity as well, including his name and Social Security number. Ron’s SSN was 276-28-2084 at the time of his disappearance. To change it would be so extreme…and I imagine it’s also incredibly difficult to do. Here are the conditions under which a typical person can have their SSN# changed by the Social Security Administration: https://faq.ssa.gov/en-us/Topic/article/KA-02220. Honestly, I can’t think of the reason he would have given them, but getting a girl pregnant and not wanting his parents (or the girl, or the girl’s angry father) to find him wouldn’t have resonated with them, I’m sure.

      Also, if that were the reason he ran away, you’d think he would have taken his car and wallet and emptied his bank account. If he needed to support a girl and a baby, how did he plan to earn a paycheck? He couldn’t do any more music gigs with his musician’s union card in his wallet and his string bass in the back seat of the car.

      And finally, there are his fingerprints that were on file with the FBI. They’re just so…mysterious. The FBI expunged them in 2002, 30 years before their retention period had expired due to a Privacy Act request or a court order, most likely the former. This tells me that Ron was still alive and had requested that they be expunged. In 2008, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office reached out to the FBI seeking his fingerprints, whereby their response was “A SEARCH OF OUR CRIMINAL AND CIVIL FILES HAS FAILED TO REVEAL ANY FINGERPRINTS FOR YOUR SUBJECT. A COMPLETE SEARCH OF OUR ARCHIVE MICROFILM FILES HAS FAILED TO REVEAL ANY FINGERPRINTS FOR THIS MISSING SUBJECT AS WELL.” That’s all they said—to a fellow law enforcement officer, which the FBI is supposed to *help*. What the FBI rep neglected to tell Butler County’s detective was that the fingerprints had been expunged in 2002 due to the Privacy Act or a court order, which was information that the person would have seen simply by looking up Ron’s name and birthdate. (I discuss more on that topic in this blog post: https://ronaldtammen.com/2021/07/09/document-comparison/.) My point here is that the FBI is good at what they do. They have ways of finding things out about people. They can contact other agencies and obtain information lickety-split. If Ron had run away–either with or without a girl–and had changed his name and SSN, they would have known it. That information would have been included *somewhere* in Ron’s file. It’s just…not. When someone from the FBI is withholding information from a fellow law enforcement officer, there’s got to be more to the story.

      That, and a few additional reasons, is why I choose your last option. 🙂

  2. Thought I sent this a few days ago, guess I didn’t. If you have a friend who’s a Wiki Editor, maybe they could add Ron to the list of “alleged subjects” of MKUltra. Maybe something like, “The working theory of the author of the website RonaldTammen.com is that his disappearance was related to the MKUltra activity on college campuses in the 1950’s.”


    1. Great idea–that would certainly give our site some visibility! Your suggested sentence is perfect.

      Any Wiki editors out there? I don’t have an account, but I could sign up. Or if some savvy soul would like to give it a try, that would be cool too.

  3. Just curious, does anyone else take a look at any missing college kids cases (even recent ones) and wonder if the CIA were somehow involved? Most likely after Ron Tammen they realized people actually try to investigate, not to mention remember for a really LONG time, when certain people disappear, and then you look at some of the similarities in the Maura Murray disappearance and Brendan Santo goes missing at the same time you start reading this blog, and your brain wants to jump to wild conclusions.

    1. I guess my response is that I don’t immediately think of the CIA when a college student–or anyone–goes missing. There are way too many possible explanations out there.

      Also, the CIA was still pretty young in 1953 — just 7 years old — and they may have learned a lesson or two with Ron. Like…maybe driving a kid off campus forever wasn’t the surefire recruiting method they thought it would be. Although, I think that’s what happened with Richard Cox too, so maybe they hadn’t learned their lesson as quickly as one would hope.

      1. It’s not something I entertain seriously so much as an explanation that was never on my radar in the first place until January.

        Some former NYPD detectives believe there’s a serial killer (dubbed the Smiley Face Killer) who abducts college men off campuses mostly in the Midwest, tortures them for weeks or months, then dumps their bodies in rivers, which if true lines up with Brandon’s disappearance. Maura seems like she planned her own disappearance, although whether it was supposed to be just a weekend or permanent is debatable and either met a tragic ending or really doesn’t want to be found.

  4. I have been enjoying myself reading some of the Richard Cox material. I noticed repeated references to a ” missing person stop” in the Identification Division. Is that typical of all missing person cases? Only active military personnel? Something different? The fact they mention that it exists means that it should also exist in Ron’s file, or there be a valid reason it doesn’t/they claim it doesn’t. Is a missing person stop different than a missing person notice?

      1. CD#3, Section 14. Page 16, “notice”. Pages 19 and 22, “stop”. There might have been a couple more along the way, but those I know for sure at the moment.

      2. That’s so interesting. I have no idea if a missing person notice is the same thing as a missing person stop. I’ll do some checking. Thanks for pointing it out! It’s been a while since I went through those docs and it had totally gotten by me.

    1. The best article that I’ve found on the topic of stop notices is in the February 1956 issue of the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin, which you can read here.

      From what I can tell, the stop notice basically flagged a fugitive’s fingerprints so that law enforcement would be notified ASAP the next time the fugitive was printed/arrested. According to the 2nd graf: “In the interest of cooperative law enforcement, this FBI repository of fingerprints serves as a ‘locator system’ in the location of wanted criminals. If a local police agency requests a ‘stop notice’ on a wanted fugitive and this individual has a fingerprint record in the FBI files, this record will be flagged. This means that any subsequent set of fingerprints of this wanted person will be matched with the ‘flagged’ record and the requesting agency will be immediately notified.”

      So I think the operative words are “wanted” and “fugitive.” When Richard Cox disappeared, he was considered a fugitive from the military, which was a bigger deal than when Ron disappeared. When Ron’s draft status changed, it’s possible that the local draft board put a stop notice on him. The documents that we have don’t indicate that, but it’s possible they were destroyed, particularly after the U.S. Attorney in Cleveland had closed his Selective Service violation case in 1955.

      After the FBI digitized fingerprints and coordinated fingerprint data with the National Crime Information Center, they likely ended the stop notices per se. Today, if a law enforcement officer runs someone’s prints, they know instantly if the person is a fugitive, and whoever needs notifying will be notified.

      Thanks again for the heads up on that. I learned something today! Btw, if anyone wants to read the entire Feb 1956 issue, here’s the link.

  5. Just a small thing, but in Carl Knox’ notes, it says Ron had a Bulova wristwatch. While that’s not a Rolex, it’s not a cheap watch either. Seems a touch out of character. I don’t know, maybe it was a high school graduation present, but in reading the notes just now, that jumped out at me.

    1. Oh, interesting! That’s not a small thing at all–I didn’t know that about Bulova! I’ll see if perhaps Robert might know where he’d gotten it. Thank you!

    2. I spoke with Robert about this. He was only 7 when Ron disappeared, so he doesn’t remember Ron’s watch. However, he did seem to recall their father wearing a Bulova watch. So he thinks it’s feasible that Mr. Tammen could have bought one for Ron for graduation or something.

  6. Yeah, I somehow forgot to mention her reference to Ron! That line sure jumped out at me, although it escaped my memory logs. I think you’d have heard from her by now if she was still alive.

    I was also floored by one one of the strong suspects in the case, I forget the name, but he checked ALL the boxes. I put myself in a jury box and uhhh, sort of think I may have found him guilty. Then DNA proved he wasn’t involved. Just a little reminder to not be too quick to assume an answer.

    I came here to ask if you could post somewhere a listing of your current FOIA and other information requests. It’s hard to keep the players straight without a scorecard.

    1. No worries! I’m actually glad you didn’t mention that part because I about died when I read it. It was a great book. Thanks so much for the recommendation. I related to her sooooo much. She could really write, and so can Patton!

      As for your idea for a FOIA scorecard—I’ve honestly been mulling over that same idea, and thinking about how I might do it. I’ll definitely add it to my to-do list. 👍 Thanks!

      Currently, I’m putting finishing touches on the next blog post, which has to do with the fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. (It’s tangentially related to my Tammen research because of all the military records that were lost.) As far as I know, this will be the first time that this story is being told publicly. I’m pretty sure it’ll be ready to go by tomorrow–stay tuned.

  7. I strongly recommend you read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, by Michelle McNamara. It’s her account of a private investigation of the Golden State Killer. I just finished it in two days. If you’ve heard of it, you know she died before the book was finished. I surely hope for better things for you!

    Anyway, the process was oddly analogous to your efforts. This line, among many, seems apt to AGMIHTF: “We live in a swipe-right, blip-scan culture of clickbait, 140-character arguments, and thirty-second viral videos. It’s easy to get someone’s attention, but it’s almost impossible to keep it.”

    1. That’s reeeeallly good. It hits so close to home, it literally brought tears to my eyes. I haven’t read her book, but it’s been on my list for a long time. Thanks for the suggestion–it sounds like something for this weekend.

      Just a few thoughts: even though I feel invisible a lot of the time, as if I’m the only one who seems to care about this or that document or whether or not someone responds to an email, I can’t let it drag me down. I know everyone has their own life to live. I just have to keep going because I honestly think this might be why I’m here. Weird, I know. Also, it’s almost as if some entities–namely, the FBI, CIA, and yes, Miami University–would love for me to lose interest and move on. I think they know by now that’s not going to happen.

      I think we seemed to have more attention and commenters in the beginning because, before I started the blog, it had been so long since anything had been reported on Tammen. Also, I’d been sitting on some pretty big stuff, which I revealed every few weeks over two years. Now, the discoveries are more incremental and, I’ll admit it, a little more in the weeds. I get it. It’s fine. This site will be here for people to check into on occasion, and hopefully, to draw in new followers as well. It’s an important story and hopefully, eventually, it’ll get out there. By the way, a very big thank you to you and several others who have been just as committed to this story as I am. Your comments and questions have been invaluable. I truly mean that.

    2. OMG! I was reading “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” today, and I just got to page 54 where she’s talking about how much of a true crime fan she is. So much so, that when she meets someone and finds out where they’re from, she immediately thinks of “the nearest unsolved crime.” And her VERY FIRST EXAMPLE is: “Tell me you went to Miami University of Ohio, and every time I see you I’ll think of Ron Tammen, the wrestler and bassist in the school jazz band who walked out of his dorm room on April 19, 1953–his radio playing, the light on, his psychology book open–and vanished, never to be seen again.” 🤯 Did that surprise you as much as it surprised me? Thank you again for the suggestion!

    3. I also really like A Murder in Music City by Michael Bishop- there’s a lot of cover-ups and scandal, albeit mostly at the municipal level, as well as tracking down witnesses, friends, etc after decades and many pertinent players dying of age as he investigates.

      1. Oh, wow–that sounds great. I need a good book right now. Thank you!
        Hey, btw, Julie, was it you who’d brought up the Heaven’s Gate cult recently with me? 20/20 and Diane Sawyer did a really excellent in-depth piece on them on Friday–now playing on Hulu. They did some serious investigative research–really great.

      2. I just finished reading it, and it’s really good! (I have to confess, I liked it a lot better than “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” mostly because I think the writers who picked up after Michelle McNamara weren’t that engaging.) I learned about it on one of my many podcasts – Southern Fried True Crime.

        And thanks for the 20/20 recommendation – I had to stop to remember even WHY I mentioned Heaven’s Gate in the first place, but yes, that was me. And apparently in reference to their website that is currently still running being less of a scam than that weird insurance site.

  8. Last line of the Carl Knox notes:

    “Did he owe Univ any money?”

    Pathetic. For a while, I thought that a Miami rep visiting the Tammens allegedly for payment was a big clue. I thought that was surely a cover story for something more important/sinister/something. Over time, I think it was simply an ill-advised but legitimate visit to collect money. Unbelievable.

    1. Yep: collect the money, ignore possible leads, alter the timeline, don’t mention which book was left open, don’t repeat certain words to reporters, but, by all means, keep the mystery going by telling ghost stories at Halloween. Interesting crisis response strategy.

  9. While the original players in the Tammen saga are all late 80’s at the youngest, whoever interviewed AD was surely much younger. While time is running out on much of the case in terms of first hand witnesses, this particular point surely doesn’t face such a pressing deadline, no pun intended. Maybe there’s nothing to report, but I’d sure like to hear firsthand from the interviewer to that effect. No particular stunning revelation here, but it’s been in the back of my mind a while and decided to mention it.

    1. True. Also, keep in mind that the interviewer and the summary writer–if they’re two different people–know about the blog and may secretly stop by from time to time to read what people are saying. When you and others comment, consider those individuals as part of your audience. Maybe a future point that you make could convince them to come forward.

  10. It’s odd that just as it’s odds against finding a document proving your case, it’s also odds against finding a document disproving. Sometimes I step back and think “Maybe it just was a frat prank gone bad and nobody talked.” Well, if that’s it, that’s it. Short of a deathbed confession, that secret won’t be discovered.

    The point is that either way, whatever happened, happened, regardless of the ability to document it. I’d really like to know. I’ve swung from being skeptical of the CIA involvement to thinking it did happen that way. There’s just an awful lot of smoke around Miami U at that time to think there wasn’t a fire. The obstructions tossed up by the various agencies sure look like the actions of people with something to hide. But I still accept it’s possible there wasn’t anything to it. I don’t know, just some big picture idle thoughts about the affair.

    1. I know what you mean. I truly do. But as you say, there’s just too much weirdness. The expunged fingerprints are a huge clue that this is more than nothing. And I love that part of the story so much because it’s so serendipitous that he was printed as a kid. And then there are the Miami officials–who were covering things up then and who are still acting strangely, I might add. Obviously I’m biased, but I really do think we’re heading in the right direction.

    2. Something occurred to me as I was answering a question about Ron’s Social Security number last night. It has to do with the university’s actions. As you know, someone from the university interviewed Carl Knox’s former secretary relatively recently, and I believe it happened sometime in the 2001-2008 timeframe. (I think it’s closer to the latter part of that timeframe, but at this point, I’m not ready to reveal everything I know or think I know.) I think whoever conducted that interview learned things about the university’s investigation that the university didn’t want to make public. That list of forbidden words would be a really good starting point, imo.

      Well…remember how Butler Co’s cold case detective (Frank Smith) reopened the investigation into Tammen’s disappearance in 2008? He contacted the university at around the same time, and they sent him some background information, mostly concerning the whereabouts of Ron’s family members. (It’s the type of info that development offices collect on their alumni, I presume.) If someone from the university had recently interviewed Carl Knox’s secretary and discovered some things and they didn’t let Detective Smith know about it? Um, that seems…unwise. I’m not saying that’s how things happened, but it’s something I’m now wondering about.

  11. A surprisingly nice letter from the CIA. I bet that almost makes you nervous. December 8, 2022. 3 years to the day after the first confirmed case of Covid. I think. Okay, a rather specific day when we’re talking 18 months out, but whatever.

    1. It’s so funny though…it sounds super nice, but then when you reread it, they’re saying “don’t call us again until that date or else you’re going to push us further behind. If you still don’t hear from us by then you can call us, and then we’ll give you another date.” They’re wily.

  12. I gave Black Vault another shot today. It’s not very user friendly. And I tried to use your instructions in the header, and really couldn’t follow them. In particular,

    “Jot down the document number from the index and then find it in one of the four folders of the searchable and downloadable database.”

    I could use some specifics on exactly where to plug in that file number. I bet (hope?) I’m not the only one.

    1. Ok, sorry about that. It’s definitely tricky. So you know how when you open a folder, you just see a list of numbers? Those numbers correspond to the document numbers in the index. (The index also refers to it as the “MORI ID#,” whatever that means 🤷🏻‍♀️, but it’s called the document number at the top of the index.) For the most part, the numbers run consecutively in the index and the folders, but then they’ll inexplicably jump to a different prefix. Also, just because a document number may be smaller than another one doesn’t mean it’s in an earlier folder.

      So as an example, the first doc number in the index is 17352. I think that may be the smallest number as well. Let’s say you want that one. The index isn’t very copy/pastable, so you’ll need to write down or type that number in a running list of the docs you want to look at. You then go to the folders to see if you can find it. The doc numbers in the folders have lots of zeroes in front of them—ignore those. And then you just hunt for your number. As it so happens, #17352 isn’t in folder 1 or 2—it’s in folder 3. Once you’ve found the document, then you try to figure out if it’s useful or not—redactions and all. It’s a very tedious process, but it’s pretty cool when you think you’ve stumbled onto something relevant. Does that help? Thank you for your efforts! 🙏

  13. Okay, I forgot you identified him. There’s an awful lot of material here. 😉

    In my mind, if Switzer was the antagonist, the woman in the car seems a lot more likely. That had always seemed a bit of an outlier to me. How exactly was everyone communicating/coordinating? But if someone ON CAMPUS was pulling the strings, well then…

    1. Add some aliases to the mix and it does get a little confusing. 😜So yeah, Switzer may have been pulling the strings from campus or maybe he was coordinating with someone from Wright Patt? Another commenter (Brett N) has said that he thinks that’s where Ron was driven that night, which seems like a reasonable hypothesis to me.

    1. Ralph Smith was my pseudonym for Logan Corbin, the former Oxford cop. That lead was that someone reportedly saw Ron in a car with a woman from Hamilton on the night of Ron’s disappearance and then, after a while, they drove away.

  14. Did you ever look into GEDmatch.com? Just browsing the site and saw that on the blood test post.

    1. I’m glad you asked. Marcia Tammen’s DNA had not been added to GEDmatch before she’d passed away. After she died, it would have been really, really difficult to get past the privacy issues for a third party to do so. Not impossible, but difficult and time-consuming. As an alternative, Robert Tammen is in the process of having his DNA tested. When he receives his results, he’ll be uploading them to GEDmatch.

  15. Well, if I was a well meaning friend of the Miami personnel mentioned, and wanted to defend them, I’d have written something a lot like that. It seemed a bit obvious. I almost said so on the thread. But as I wasn’t sure, I let it go.

    1. Sure, but I can’t have someone misrepresenting their area of expertise. Because it’s my blog, I can’t let things go so easily. As a result, I’ve removed the anonymous feature so people need to put a name to what they’re saying.

    1. Based on evidence I gathered, I believe that the lengthy post from Anonymous was written by an imposter. After nine days, I pulled it plus my comments.

  16. I’ll share one point I’d never considered before finding this site. I had a sort of blind spot for the possibility Ron rode away in someone else’s car. Nothing earth shattering in that, but I’m amazed it never entered my mind. That particular point is probably why I’d always leaned to the Fraternity Prank Gone Wrong Theory.

    1. I know, right? It just makes so much sense. And unless he hitchhiked, which I don’t believe he did, now we have ourselves a conspiracy. (PS. Thanks for using the new page!)

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