Saturday, 29 December 2018

What really happened to Brian Shaffer?

Hey everyone, thought I'd make one last post before 2018 is over.

Brian Shaffer was just 27 years old when he vanished off the face of the earth during spring break in 2006. 

Shaffer, who was a second year medical student at Ohio state university, went missing after a night of bar hopping with friends on Friday March 31st. 2006.
Before hitting the town with friends that night, Brian went out to dinner with his dad and brother to celebrate. His father did not notice anything off about his son other than the fact that he seemed fatigued which he thought was probably due to one too many late nights of studying for his final exams. Around 9:50PM Brian made a call to his girlfriend. She had no idea it would be the last time she heard his voice. 

After the meal, at around 10PM, Brian met with a friend named William “Clint” Florence. The two met a local bar named “The ugly tuna saloona”. The bar was on 1546 north High Street in Columbus, but Google it these days and you’ll notice it’s recorded as being permanently closed. 

The Ugly Tuna Saloona has an average rating of 2 out of 5 stars on Yelp- “They have one of, if not the best happy hours on campus being $1 any well drink from 8-10 Monday-Saturday” says one customer. 
How can you hate a place that sells Jell-o shots in a big plastic syringe and puts a plastic alligator in your huge fishbowl o' alcohol???” another user writes.

From there Brian and Clint visited multiple bars throughout the course of the evening, slamming a shot at each establishment with the aim of ending up at Arena district.  
The Arena district is a neighborhood in Columbus that is easy to walk to on foot. It has everything from bars and restaurants to malls and sports facilities. This video from 2010 describes the area perfectly.

Arena district would be around a 40 minute walk from the Ugly Tuna Saloona in North High Street.

 Brian and Clint reached their destination at around midnight after stopping at various bars along the way. They hitched a ride back with a female friend of Clint named Meredith Reed. The three drove back to the Ugly Tuna and had one last drink together.
Surveillance footage from the bar confirms that the three did indeed go back to the Tuna and they were recorded arriving at 1:15AM.

At some point Clint noticed that Brian was missing. Despite their repeated attempts to call and locate him he was nowhere to be found. Clint and Meredith were eventually ushered out of the bar at closing time, around 2AM. Although they continued to wait for their missing friend outside of the bar, he never showed up.  
They did tell police that Brian went to talk to the live band after they finished their set that night, but the members couldn’t offer up any helpful information. Brian had two sides to him, on one hand he had been training his whole life to become a doctor, and on the other hand he wanted nothing more than to be a musician and song writer. He was a fan of Eddie Vedder and Jimmy Buffett and had a tattoo of the artwork from the Pearl Jam single “Alive”.

Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

I'm still breathing,
I'm alive
I found solace in the strangest place
Way in the back of my mind I saw my life in a stranger's face
And it was mine I had a one-way ticket to a place where all the demons go
Where the wind don't change
And nothing in the ground can ever grow
No hope, just lies
And you're taught to cry into your pillow
 But I survived
 I'm still breathing
 I'm alive

Eventually Brian’s friends assumed that he had returned to his apartment in King Avenue without telling them and gave up looking. King Avenue is around 1 hour 40 minutes on foot, but only a 10-12 minute drive by car. Did Brian hail a cab after failing to find his friends? Did someone offer him a ride home? One could reach King Avenue by car via Olentangy River Rd which runs parallel to the river itself.

Shaffer had an important flight to Miami, Florida to catch the following Monday, but after he failed to show up for it he was quickly reported missing.

CCTV footage from outside of the Ugly Tuna revealed that Brian Shaffer was last spotted chatting with 2 women outside of the bar at around 1:55AM before bidding them goodnight and appearing to walk back towards the Ugly Tuna entrance. This footage would go on to inspire many a theory about what happened to Brian that night.

(GIF of the video for your convenience)

How could it be that a man was recorded seemingly entering a building but not leaving?
First of all, the cameras did not exactly record him going into the bar, only in the direction of. Many people assume that he was heading back into the Ugly Tuna as his friends were still inside and the bar was not yet closed. Also, none of the surveillance footage handed into police that night captured Brian in the local area.

There was reportedly a service door which was off limits to general patrons. Brian’s lack of authority to exit the building through a staff-only door would not make it physically impossible for him to do so, which is why many an internet sleuth hypothesizes that taking another exit is exactly what he did. 

The only problem with this theory is that the service door lead out onto a construction site and Brian was not captured on any other surveillance tape in the local area. The local area was plentiful with other bars and restaurants that handed in their CCTV tapes from the night, but there was no sign or Brian on any of them.

He had not returned to his apartment that night and his car was still parked outside.
His apartment was targeted by robbers a month later.

Police did at one point entertain the idea that he could have changed clothes with the intention of voluntarily walking away from his life, however it is unknown if this was the case. His family argues that his life was good and that he had a bright future ahead of him. He was going to be a doctor and was apparently planning on proposing to his girlfriend, Alexis Waggoner (also a medical student); in Miami on a spring break vacation that he had spent “weeks planning to perfection”. In a TV show about the case, Brian’s girlfriend reveals the content of their last phone call on the night that he went missing. Brian apparently told her (in regards to going out that Friday night) "This is my chance to talk about you with the guys, I love you and I'll see you in a couple of days."

Police did an extensive search along with a K9 unit but nothing turned up. They walked the Olentangy River, searched the sewers and even looked through dumpsters in the area.
Eddie Vedder also pitched in on the hunt to find the missing med student and read out a description of him while holding up the missing flyer at a Pearl Jam show not long after Brian went missing.

Date of Birth: February 11, 1979, 28 years old Height: 6 feet, 2 inches Weight: 160-165 pounds Eyes: Hazel Tattoo: Upper right arm, Pearl Jam symbol Central Ohio Crime Stoppers: 1-877-645-8477” the poster read. It was widely circulated but other than a homeless man who thought he saw him a week after Brian’s initial disappearance, sadly, nothing came of it.

Brian’s family called his cellphone repeatedly and heartbreakingly every day for the next several months after he went missing. The calls went directly to his voicemail. Strangely, on the 23rd of September when Brian’s girlfriend called his phone, just as she did routinely each night, it rang. It rang several more time, each time going to voicemail when it wasn’t answered. Either the phone was turned on after several months, or it was a temporary malfunction on the providers end.

Everyone who met with Brian that night, including his own father, took and passed a polygraph test- everyone except Clinton (who refused to do so and lawyered up) and the two women he talked to that night at 1:55AM. Although the women were identified they were never asked to sit a lie detector test as investigators likely did not consider them suspects in Brian’s disappearance.
In an interview, Brian’s brother talked of how Clint spoke of his brother in a negative light after he went missing. This coupled with his resistance to taking a polygraph made people suspicious of his involvement. 

Following the death of Brian’s father a comment was posted beneath his online obituary that read “To dad, love Brian”. The comment was later said to be a cruel hoax.  It was signed from the Virgin Islands, but an IP trace debunked the location.

So what really happened to Brian Shaffer?


  1. Although this case has never been solved and Brian has never been found there are those who think that it is linked to the smiley face killers. The smiley face killers is a theory that connects drownings of many college men who were successful, good looking, and inebriated at the time of their disappearance. Is it possible that Brian was part of this group of victims and his body was never found? If you haven't read about the smiley face killers I suggest you google it and read a few articles. It is very interesting.

    1. Does this killer work the Boston area. We have missing men that fit the description you stated.

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  3. Those lyrics aren't from the Pearl Jam song! Those are lyrics from the song 'Alive' by the band "Sia".