The Strange Case of the Circleville Letters: A Small Town Stalked

The Strange Case of the Circleville Letters: A Small Town Stalked

In the mid-1970s, the residents of Circleville, Ohio, a small, close-knit town, found themselves at the center of a mystery that would linger for decades. It began with the arrival of sinister, anonymous letters that revealed personal secrets and levied threats, creating a climate of fear and suspicion. This series of events has come to be known as the Strange Case of the Circleville Letters.

Beginning of the Mystery

The unsettling phenomenon started in 1976 when residents began receiving letters postmarked from Columbus, Ohio. These letters contained personal information and accusations, and they seemed to be written by someone with an intimate knowledge of the townspeople’s lives. One of the most targeted individuals was a school bus driver named Mary Gillispie.

Mary Gillispie’s Harassment

Mary received numerous letters accusing her of an extramarital affair with the school superintendent. The anonymous author warned Mary that she was being watched and that her actions had not gone unnoticed. Despite this, the letters remained a private concern until the writer’s campaign escalated.

The Signs and Threats

In 1977, large, hand-painted signs began appearing alongside Mary’s bus route, further accusing her of the alleged affair. The situation took a dangerous turn when Mary’s husband, Ron Gillispie, received a letter stating that if he did not disclose the affair to the school board, he would die.

Ron Gillispie’s Death

In August of 1977, driven by an intent to confront the author of the signs, Ron Gillispie left his house armed with his gun. Tragically, he was later found dead inside his truck, which had crashed into a tree. Despite having fired a shot from his gun, his death was ruled an accident, but many in the town questioned this conclusion.

Paul Freshour’s Conviction

The letters continued even after Ron’s death, and in 1983, the focus shifted to Ron’s brother-in-law, Paul Freshour. After an attempt to trap the letter writer, the police traced the letters to Paul, who was subsequently convicted of attempted murder, due to an alleged attempt on Mary’s life via a booby-trapped sign along her bus route. Although Paul maintained his innocence, and some Circleville residents remained skeptical, he served over a decade in prison.

Questioning the Guilty Verdict

Throughout Paul Freshour’s incarceration, the letters did not stop. They were still postmarked from Columbus, despite Paul being held in a different location without the freedom to send mail anonymously. This led to rising doubts about his involvement.

The Letters Continue

After his release, Paul fought to clear his name, but the true identity of the writer remained a mystery. The letters tapered off in the mid-1990s, having cast a shadow over Circleville for nearly two decades.

The Aftermath and Legacy

Despite several investigations, including one by the television series “Unsolved Mysteries,” the case remained unresolved. No further suspects were convicted, and the Circleville writer’s identity became one of Ohio’s most perplexing enigmas.

The Circleville letters saga is a chilling reminder of the power of anonymity and the profound impact it can have on a community. It demonstrates the fear and paranoia that can arise from such targeted harassment and the lingering questions that can haunt a town when a case remains unsolved.

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