The Circleville Letter Writer Terrified Ohioans In The '70s

In 1976, the residents of Circleville, Ohio, and the surrounding Pickaway 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

    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

    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

    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

    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.

  • The Gun That Nearly Killed Mary Belonged To Ron's Brother-In-Law

    When Mary Gillespie discovered the gun rigged to shoot at her when she removed one of the letter writer's defamatory signs, she immediately brought it to the police. The serial number had been scratched off, but a forensics lab was able to decipher what was left of it. The weapon belonged to Paul Freshour, a man who was once married to Ron Gillespie's sister.

    He stood trial for attempted murder on October 24, 1983. Freshour took a handwriting test, and an expert testified in court that he was the letter writer. Freshour's boss also testified that he wasn't at work the day Mary Gillespie discovered the booby trap. Mary told the jury that she believed Freshour was the letter writer and that his wife approached Mary with the same suspicion. He was convicted and sentenced to seven to 25 years in prison. He was eventually granted parole after serving 10 years.

  • The Letters Continued After Paul Freshour Was Placed In Solitary Confinement

    The Letters Continued After Paul Freshour Was Placed In Solitary Confinement
    Photo: Ohio Department of Corrections / YouTube

    Once Paul Freshour was imprisoned, many believed that the mysterious letters would come to an end. But that wasn't the case. More letter arrived, and each was exactly the same as the last; none had a return address, and they were all postmarked from Columbus.

    Authorities suspected that Freshour worked out a system with someone on the outside, so he was placed in solitary confinement. The letters continued. Even Paul received a letter, which mocked him for being put away for a crime he likely didn't commit. The letter to Paul read, "Now when are you going to believe you aren’t going to get out of there? I told you 2 years ago. When we set ’em up, they stay set up.  Don’t you listen at all?” Paul was released from prison after 10 years, and he maintained his innocence until his death in 2012.