We’ve all done it before: you’re curious about something, give it the quick Google, read up about it on Wikipedia, and next thing you know you’re delving into the history of the United States hemp industry (or lack thereof). That’s called a Wikipedia Hole: you hop on the internet’s encyclopedia to learn about one thing, only to click down so deep, you end up learning about something else entirely.
That happened to me this morning. I was Googling some information about Ohio State’s nightlight and came across the Ugly Tuna Saloona, one of OSU’s most popular bars. One thing led to another and before I knew it was I was reading the Wikipedia page of Brian Shaffer, a 27-year-old OSU medical student who vanished seemingly out of thin air from the Ugly Tuna Saloona.
Shaffer’s disappearance happened in 2006 — before the smartphone revolution, before Twitter, before all of that — so unless you were an adult at the time (which I wasn’t), you’ve likely never hear his story.
The night of March 31, 2006, was the first night of Ohio State’s Spring Break, so Shaffer went out with his friends to celebrate. At 9 p.m., Shaffer met with his friend William “Clint” Florence at the Ugly Tuna Saloona, a popular bar in the South Campus Gateway complex on High Street. Approximately an hour after meeting with Florence, Shaffer called his girlfriend Alexis Waggoner — who was home visiting her family — to tell her that he loved her.
After meeting Florence at the Ugly Tuna Saloona, Shaffer and Florence went barhopping across The Short North, a neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. Around midnight, after the bar crawl, Shaffer and Florence met up with Meredith Reed, who gave them a ride back to the Ugly Tuna Saloona for one last drink.
What happens next can only be described as unexplainable.
While at the Ugly Tuna, Florence and Reed were separated from Shaffer despite their repeated attempts to contact him. 2 a.m. came and went with Shaffer nowhere to be found. He was last seen on security camera entering the bar around 1:15am, but not leaving. Another camera showed he hadn’t slipped out an emergency exit, either. According to police, every single person who entered the Ugly Tuna Saloona that night was seen leaving on camera, except Shaffer.
Police say it’s possible that he could have escaped through an unwatched freight elevator, claiming that security cameras from nearby bars should have spotted him afterward, especially since Columbus has the most security cameras of any city in Ohio, more than Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo combined.
While foul play has been suspected, it has also been speculated that he might be alive and be living somewhere else. In fact, over the years, many theories about Shaffer’s disappearance cropped up. Some say he was murdered by the Smiley Face serial killer, others say he started a new life in the Virigin Islands, while some believe he’s actually still living in Ohio.
In the months after Shaffer’s disappearance, Waggoner, his girlfriend, would call Brian’s phone every night before going to bed, despite that fact that it always went to voicemail.
“I kept calling it to hear it purely because it was one of the best sounds I have ever heard, even if no one picked up”, she once wrote on her Myspace page.
But then, on one random night in September 2006, Shaffer’s phone actually rang… three times. Cingular, Brian’s wireless provider, said the ring Waggoner heard may have been due to a computer glitch. Furthermore, given that his phone was not GPS-enabled, it’s location could not be determined.
However, despite this, a ping from Brian’s phone was detected at a cell tower. The cell phone tower’s location? In Hilliard, Ohio, 14 miles northwest of Columbus, the city where Brian was last seen.
At the time of this writing, Shaffer has been missing for 12 years, 1 month and 22 days.
Where ever he may be, may he be in peace