The Circleville Letter Writer Terrified Ohioans In The '70s  

Jacob Shelton
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In 1976, the residents of Circleville, Ohio and the surrounding Pickway County area began receiving anonymous letters that exposed details about their private lives and offered veiled threats to their recipients. The people who received these mysterious letters were embroiled in a number of small-town mysteries and scandals. The letters exposed an affair, led to a man's likely-false imprisonment, and were punctuated by an attempted murder via booby-trap. The messages were composed in large, block-like capital letters and contained no indication of who sent them. Although the letters continued for decades, the Circleville Letter Writer's true identity remains a mystery to this day.

The Letter Writer Tried To Kill Mary Gillespie With A Booby-Trap
The Letter Writer Tried To Kil... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Circleville Letter Writer Terrified Ohioans In The '70s
Photo: -Benedikt-/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

In 1983, several years after the Gillespie family received their first letter from the Circleville Letter Writer in 1976, the family began receiving the messages once again. They were postmarked from Columbus just like the anonymous letters from the '70s and used the same blocky, capitalized writing. This time, however, the letters were accompanied by a series of posters plastered around the town with personal information maligning Mary's daughter.

Mary was a bus driver, and the posters were concentrated along her route. When Mary stopped her bus to remove one of the signs, she found that it was attached by a string to a cardboard box—inside she found a handgun rigged to fire at her when she tore down the poster. Fortunately, the trap didn't succeed.

Ron Gillespie Died In A Mysterious Car Crash
Ron Gillespie Died In A Myster... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Circleville Letter Writer Terrified Ohioans In The '70s
Photo: perthhdproductions/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

On August 17, 1977 Ron Gillespie received a phone call from an unknown source. The person on the other line enraged Gillespie—he allegedly grabbed a gun, left his house without saying a word, and drove away. His family speculates that whoever it was confirmed the identity of the letter writer, and Gillespie went to confront them. Later that day his car was found wrapped around a tree, and according to the local sheriff's department, Gillespie had a blood alcohol level 1.5 times the legal limit. Forensics showed that the gun had been fired, but the bullet was never recovered, and investigators can't determine why he would have discharged the weapon.


The Local Sheriff's Department May Have Covered Up Ron's Murder
The Local Sheriff's Depart... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Circleville Letter Writer Terrified Ohioans In The '70s
Photo: raymondclarkeimages/flickr/CC-BY-NC 2.0

Many people believe that the sheriff's department attempted to cover up Ron Gillespie's death by claiming he had high levels of alcohol in his system, thereby ruling the crash an accident. Gillespie's friends and family, however, say that he very rarely drank.

The letter writer grew angry when Gillespie's death was publicized as accidental, and he accused the sheriff's department of a coverup. He wrote letters to several townspeople urging further investigation.

The Letters Exposed Mary Gillespie's Affair
The Letters Exposed Mary Gille... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Circleville Letter Writer Terrified Ohioans In The '70s
Photo:  NBC4 WCMH-TV Columbus/YouTube

When the mysterious Circleville letters began arriving in 1976, they contained basic personal information about the recipient, and claims that they were being watched by whomever was writing the letters.

One letter to Mary Gillespie, a local school bus driver read, “I’ve been observing your house and know you have children. This is no joke. Please take it serious.” A following letter would expose her illicit affair with the school's superintendent. The letters were postmarked from Columbus, but they didn't have a return address, and there were no distinguishing marks outside of the big block handwriting that might identify the sender.