The Circleville letters: You’ve got hate mail

An anonymous letter writer terrorizes a small town, threatening to expose their rumored dark secrets.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Circleville, Ohio, the residents open their mailboxes to find mysterious letters to terrorize them. This letter reads in part:

“You have been noticed: Failure to comply and you will suffer: No one can help: No one can protect you: Follow: Follow:”

Circleville, Ohio

The peaceful character of the small town, known for its annual pumpkin show, changed in March 1977. Circleville businesses and select residents began receiving anonymous letters with personal information and allegations.

anonymous letter

Some mysterious handwritten letters were sent with no return address. The recipients were being charged with embezzlement, domestic violence, affairs and even murder.


School bus driver, Mary Gillispie (left) became the main target of the letters. The author accused Gillispie, who was married, of having an affair with married school superintendent Gordon Massey (right).

poison pen

A letter to Mary Gillispie reads:


This is your last chance to report him: I know you’re a pig and will prove it and embarrass you from Ohio: A pig hides around and gets other female husbands behind their backs, causing Families and homes and marriages suffer: “

A letter to Ronald Gillispie

The letters sent to Mary Gillespie did not stop and they were increasingly in danger. Her husband, Ronald Gillispie, started receiving her as well. The author, who was adamant that an alleged affair was taking place between Mary Gillispie and Gordon Massey, wrote to Ronald Gillispie:

“You must hold them together and kill them both.”

a fatal accident

One evening in August 1977, while his wife was on her way to Florida, Ronald Gillispie received a mysterious phone call allegedly from the author. He rode in his pickup truck and died after hitting a tree. A once-fired gun was found under his body, raising the question of whether he was shooting at the letter writer. The coroner ruled Gillespie’s death an accident, but others suspect he was murdered. He was 35 years old.

Another day, another sign

Mary Gillispie has always denied having an affair with Gordon Massey, but after her husband’s death, she says they began to see each other. Then the threats against him increased.

On February 7, 1983, Mary Gillispie was driving her bus route to pick up the children. This is the intersection where he saw an obscene sign about his 13-year-old daughter. Mary Gillispie tried to pull the sign down a fence, but she saw that it was rigged with twine and a box. He took the box home and opened it. Inside was a gun ready to go.

deadly booby trap

Mary Gillespie took the box to the police, and they quickly realized it was a booby trap. Investigators with Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) revealed the gun’s serial number and traced it to someone Mary Gillispie knew.

paul freshaur

The gun belonged to Paul Fresher. The news was shocking as the freshaur was Mary and Ron Gillespie’s brother-in-law. Fresher always believed that Ron had been murdered and pushed the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office to look into the matter more closely.

suspected letter writer

When investigators interviewed the estranged wife of Paul Fresaur, she claimed that she was also a Circleville letter writer. Although Freshaur insists he had nothing to do with the letters or the booby trap, he was arrested and tried for attempted murder.

“Whatever Lasts” Podcast

Marie is the host of Mayu “All That’s Left” podcast, where she discusses the Circleville papers. she tells ,48 hours” is only one piece of evidence linking Paul Fresher to the Booby Trap. “I think the gun is probably – under investigation for me , Strongest evidence,” Mayu said.

the painful letter continues

Although Paul Fresher was never charged with writing the letter, the judge at trial allowed in 39 letters. This was a break for prosecutors who claimed that the writings on Booby Trap shared similarities to those letters.

Fresher was convicted of attempted murder and everyone assumed that the letter writer was now behind bars, but the letters were never closed.

Is the author still out?

Paul Fresher served 10 years in prison for the attempted murder of Mary Gillispie. He was not allowed pen or paper behind bars, but letters were still on. Even Freshour got one.

The letter to Freshour reads in part: “Freshour: now when will you believe you ain’t getting out there: I old you two years ago when we set them up

clue to the author

Former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole looked at the letters that continued during Paul Fresher’s stay in prison. After nearly 20 years, the letters stopped in 1994 when Fresher was released from prison. Over the years, Freshour still maintained his innocence.

“If a crime continues and you have someone in custody for a long time, you have to say, “Someone else is sending this letter. They are not happening by magic. Someone else is writing the letter,” O’Toole said.

Due diligence

“48 Hours” wanted an independent analysis of the Circleville letters and turned to forensic document specialist Beverly East, who studied some anonymous letters and some examples of Paul Fresher’s handwriting. She explained how unique the letter “G” and some other numbers were, which convinced her that she knew who was responsible. The former says she is “100 percent sure.”

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