There are a few descriptors that come to mind when journalists think of Ronald Tammen. Wrestler, jazz musician, frat boy and residence hall counselor, to name a few. But there is more to this enigmatic 19-year-old that meets the eye.
The first thing that his friends and family thought was “handsome.” His rugged good looks rivalled James Dean himself. However, a crooked front tooth seemed to marl that, though some say that’s what made him perfect. Other adjectives for Ron include “nice, smart, and studious.” Nothing less of a sophomore at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
An alumnus from the prestigious research university described Ron as the closest thing to Ivy League he’s ever seen. From a young age, Ron had dreams of becoming successful, of becoming a stock broker. He always came up with ways to make money: being a newspaper boy, working at the local bowling alley and caddying at country clubs. A middle child, Ron took care of his family in Maple Heights, a small suburb in Northeast Ohio. They could count on him whenever they needed someone to talk to.
Which is why his disappearance just makes no sense.
The night of April 19, 1953 was a bit brutal. Anyone who lives in Ohio knows that the weather is unpredictable at best. That night, in the middle of spring, it snowed.
Ron lived in Fisher Hall, a dormitory on campus that has since been torn down. His roommate, Chuck Findlay, was away visiting family. So, he went to pay a car insurance bill to Glenn Dennison Friday night. Dennison said that they chatted for a bit, mostly about Ron’s jazz band, the Campus Owls.
The next day was filled with many activities for someone so involved at the university. Although the practice is no longer continued, students often attended classes on Saturdays. Ron had two in the morning, and in the evening he spent time with his band and his fraternity. So, nothing out of the ordinary.
The night of the 19th, however, is when things got strange. The events leading up to the disappearance were normal. Ron went about his evening studying and hanging out with friends. Around 7 p.m., he was seen down the hall in a friend’s room, helping him with homework.
The last time someone saw Ron was around 9 p.m. He just left his room to get new sheets for his bed. He found a dead fish in the sheets: a practical joke. The hall manager, Mrs. Todhunter, said that he looked “tired.”
Chuck Findlay returned to their shared room around 10:30 p.m. What he found was odd: Ron’s car keys, wallet, cash and psychology textbook were still in the room. The book sat open on the desk, and a radio played music. Ron’s car sat in the parking lot, containing his bass fiddle.
The only thing missing was Ron himself.
The initial search was informal. A group of over 400 students searched area surrounding the dorm a week after Ron’s disappearance. On April 28, a five-state alarm was issued, saying that all rail, bus, and plane terminals in the area showed no sign of him.
Miami University, along with the Oxford Police Department, Butler County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio State Highway Patrol led the investigation. Ron’s mother reported him missing to the FBI in May. Interestingly, the FBI really only stepped in when they realized Ron never renewed his student deferment for military duty.
Researchers today are puzzled by the lack of paperwork surrounding Ron’s case. With so many people involved in the investigation, there should be piles and piles of information. Yet, in 2008, when the case was reopened, the police found a single piece of paper describing a traffic violation.
The first theory comes from investigators from the investigation in 1953. That is, the idea that Ron developed amnesia. Because of his history as a wrestler, it is possible that the rough nature of the sport caused brain damage. This would explain the peculiar nature of Ron leaving his belongings behind. Police officers believed that he simply wandered off.
However, in June of that same year, a woman named Clara Spivey came forward with information. Around midnight the same night Ron disappeared, she said that a man showed up to her house asking for directions. She believed it to be Ron, since his appearance was memorable and he seemed embarrassed.
A second theory is that Ron got involved with the wrong people. The family physician, H.H. Stephenson, said that Ron requested a blood test exactly five months before he vanished. This is peculiar, because Ron wanted to know his blood type. Also, Stephenson said that it was the first time anyone had asked him for that specific type of test.
Similarly, Stephenson thought he saw Ron in a hotel restaurant in New York. He noticed someone sitting at a table surrounded by a group of men, staring at him. What was most remarkable, however, was that the person looked exactly like Ron. He described the encounter as if the doppelgänger was looking right through him from across the room. Stephenson said that he left the restaurant, but returned shortly after to see if the man was still there. Yet, the look-alike was gone.
While there have been leads here and there over the years, one fact remains: Ron Tammen is gone, and no one knows why.