The Story Of The Circleville Letters
This is a notorious case involving an anonymous letter writer who sent threatening and provocative letters to residents of Circleville Ohio and the surrounding areas from 1976 to the early 1990s. Secrets about nearly everyone in the community were divulged, but the identity of the letter writer or writers remains unknown to this day.
The exact number of letters sent remains uncertain, as many were discarded by the recipients out of fear or frustration. It’s estimated that over a thousand letters might have been dispatched during the Circleville letter writer’s campaign. Every Circleville letter was postmarked from Columbus Ohio situated about 25 miles north of Circleville.
The letters were handwritten, showcasing various styles and methods. This led some to speculate the possibility of multiple writers. The letters showed a deep knowledge of the recipient’s personal lives and activities.
Where did this intimate knowledge stem from? The community used party lines until the mid 1980s, which meant that other people could eavesdrop on conversations. Would individuals be so careless as to discuss sensitive matters that could drastically affect their lives, the way these letters did for many? Perhaps things overheard triggered gossip, or maybe the gossips didn’t concern themselves with what might be picked up on the phone line.
The letters content was highly provocative. They often accused individuals of infidelity, deceit, scandalous behavior, and even murder. Some letters contained threats, instigating increased fear and anxiety in the community of about twelve thousand residents.
The letter writer who terrorized individuals indiscriminately, without any discernible pattern or rationale was ruthless. While the threats and accusations were pointed and severe, they seemingly had no purpose other than to inflict emotional distress. The absence of an evident motive only deepens the enigma.
The Mystery of the Circleville Letters: Threats, Secrets, and the Affected Families
In 1976, the saga began when an individual, known as the “Writer,” sent letters brimming with threats of violence and suggestions of blackmail. This writer sought to manipulate the votes for a favored candidate in the county election.
First Letter To The Circleville Community
The letter stated:
“Please, let’s keep the writer contented. You’ve been observed. Fail to comply, and you shall suffer. No one can assist you, no one can shield you. Comply. Elect Mister Massie to some kind of office, or you and the town of Circleville will pay dearly. The responsibility lies with you. The letter is signed, ‘Writer.'”
Months of silence from the Circleville mystery writer followed this incident. However, in March of 1977, the community was deluged with anonymous letters. Residents were in constant fear, never certain if their mailbox held a malicious truth or an unfounded rumor about them. These sinister letters tore friendships apart, fragmented families, and cast suspicion on everyone. The police, baffled by the sender’s hidden identity, struggled with an absence of concrete clues.
Because of the letters’ delicate content, specific details might be withheld. Such was the harrowing effect on the victims and the community that some chose to keep the full contents a secret, either to protect their privacy or out of apprehension of drawing more attention.
While many in the community received messages from the Circleville Letter Writer, our story zeroes in on several families profoundly impacted. Specific letters, dispatched in March of 1977, honed in on an alleged affair and leveled charges of unfaithfulness.
Interestingly, these letters showcased two distinct writing styles. One was characterized by broad block letters, and the other had a conventional handwriting and was signed with the letter “W”. Four individuals were particularly singled out: Ron & Mary Gillispie, Traci Gillispie, Gordon Massie, and the Sheriff.
The Circleville Letters: Gordon Massie
Gordon Massie served as the Superintendent of Westfall School. In 1952, he wed Clara May Clagg, who was an elementary school teacher within the Westfall School District. The couple welcomed their son, William Massie, in 1957. By 1976, William would have been 18 or 19 years old. Although the Massies faced several challenges in their relationship, they sought reconciliation.
Clara had initially filed for divorce post William’s graduation, citing allegations of gross neglect of duty and extreme cruelty. However, they reconciled and dismissed their divorce proceedings in November 1976.
On March 2, 1977, the first anonymous letter was delivered to Westfall High School, specifically addressed to the superintendent, Gordon Massie. The letter was penned in a distinct, cramped print, with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters. It accused Massie of sexually harassing bus drivers and indulging in an extramarital affair with a married school bus driver from Circleville.
The letter read:
“According to my girlfriend, you have asked her out on numerous occasions and have also approached other female bus drivers. This behavior must cease immediately for the well-being of the school and affected families. If these actions persist, I will have no choice but to approach the school board — a step I would rather avoid. To covet another man’s partner is reprehensible. I suggest you find yourself an available partner and refrain from pursuing my acquaintances.”
The anonymous writer urged Massie to come clean about his alleged relationships, warning of consequences if he failed to do so. As Massie maintained his silence, more letters followed, some escalating in their threats.
One particularly menacing letter warned that Massie’s brake lines would be tampered with if he continued his purported relationships with employees. Furthermore, the School Board was inundated with letters detailing Massie’s alleged affairs with bus drivers and vehemently demanding his termination.
Despite the growing pressure, Massie refuted all allegations. The school chose not to terminate him, largely due to a lack of substantial evidence supporting the claims.
The Circleville Letters: The Letter To The School
March 18th, 1977, after waiting a few weeks and seeing that the demands weren’t met, the writer sends a letter to the Schools Vice Principal. This one tells of Massie’s alleged affairs and how proof would be sent. The writer used an employee’s identification number 62971 which was that of Mary Gillispie.
The only portion of the letter we could find reads, Talk to Gordon Massie about his affair. I shall warn you, I know the truth, I want to protect your school it has a good reputation you should keep it like that. I shall send you proof about driver number x. She has a child in school there now, I shall prove this shortly. I expect him to be discharged, you’ll see that I am telling the truth.
The Circleville Letters: Ron and Marry Gillispie
Ron and Mary Gillispie were high school sweethearts and were married not long after Mary had graduated in 1961. They had one son, Eric born in 1963 and one daughter, Traci born in 1970. Ron was an Elk Lodge member and the couple was well liked in the community.
On March 21, 1977, another anonymous letter arrives on Brooks Miller Rd in an isolated rural area postmarked from Columbus Ohio. This was Ron and Mary’s home. The letter was addressed to Mary. It was hand written in a distinctive block letter style and accused Mary of having an affair with Gordon Massie, the superintendent of schools.
The letter writer demanded she stay away from Massie and leaves an open threat telling her that her house is being watched and that she has children and that this is not a joke. It also informed her that notification of this affair has been sent out to those concerned.
First Letter To Mary Gillispie
The letter Read:
Mrs Gillispie stay away from Massie don’t like when questioned about meeting him. I know where you live, I’ve been observing your house and know you have children. This is no joke. Please take it serious. Everyone concerned has been notified and everything will be over soon.
Second Letter To Mary Gillispie
Then on march 29th 1977 she gets another letter:
Call the sheriff. He can’t watch you forever. Stay away from hin noon as well as night. If I can’t get you together and you make a fool me such as the school has done, I shall come out there and put a bullet in that little girl’s head. Too many think this is a joke. We’ll see in time. I know where you live. I’ve been watching your house.
Third Letter To Mary Gillispie
The threatening letters kept arriving. She received the third letter April 5th 1977. It Read:
This is your last chance to report him. I know you are a pig and will prove it, and shame you out of Ohio. A pig sneaks around and meets other women’s husbands behind their backs, only causes family’s, homes and marriages to suffer. You are such a pig and I will prove it. Why doesn’t he come to your rescue or has he to much too lose in his wife, which pigs like you take advantage of, his 28,500 dollar a year job or his kick backs. How’s your little girl? Will she grow up to be like you?
Mary failed to tell her husband about the letters so the writer decides he should tell Ron about Mary and Gordon Massie. Now her husband, Ron started receiving letters from the writer.
The first letter arrives April 9th 1977 and tells him of the affair his wife is having with Gordon Massie and that they should be eliminated before they eliminate him. The writer also informed Ron that he or she has knowledge of the kind of car he drives and also knows where he works. The writer tells him his life is in danger.
First Letter To Ron Gillispie
The Letter Reads:
We must inform you that your wife is having an affair with Mr. Massie she has chased him until he caught her. Eliminate them both before they eliminate you. Remember, we know where you work and know your red and white truck. No one can help you. Think of your children and their future. Call the school board and report the truth after you finish your investigation. Notify the school board immediately. Again, your life is in danger.
Having read the letter Ron confronts Mary about the affiar. Mary denied having an affair and showed him the letters she had received. Neither knows quite what to do about the letters.
A few days later, Ron receives a second letter.
Second Letter To Ron Gillispie
“Your doing a lot for her, no one cares that much for anyone this day, make him come to her rescue, but he won’t, He’s being awful good lately, He knows what he must do, but he won’t, Make her admit the truth, call the school board, His affairs must stop everyone will know soon, Think of yourself.”
Third Letter To Ron Gillispie
The third letter is received April 14th, 1977.
You have had two week and done nothing. You are a pig defender. You are also a pig. Make here admit the trist and inform the school board. If not, I will broadcast it on posters, signs, billboards until the truth comes out. Only pigs ride motorcycles. Good hunting in your red and white truck on your way to work.
The Circleville Letters: Paul Freshour and Karen Sue Gillispie
Ron, out of complete frustration and knowing that his brother-in-law had once been a prison guard decided to involve him and his wife, Ron’s sister, Karen Sue, in this perplexing situation. After all they were family and were all close.
Ron’s brother-in-law, Paul Larry Freshour, had married Ron’s sister, Karen Sue Gillisipie in October of 1962. Paul worked as a Quality Control Inspector at the Anheuser Busch Plant in Columbus and Karen worked at a nonprofit organization involved in horse racing, the United States Trotting Association. The company was headquartered in Columbus where she worked in financing.
After Paul and Karen arrive at the Gillisipie’s home, they informed them as to what was happening. Not only were they getting threatening letters, but posters were being erected along Mary’s bus route. Ron informed them that he was leaving earlier in the mornings so that he could remove them before the students, his children and passers-by saw them. As the letter writer stated, he was hunting them on his way to work.
Mary and Ron shared with them that Mary believed she had identified the person penning the letters. She mentioned a coworker named David Longberry, who also worked as a school bus driver. He had made multiple romantic advances towards Mary, all of which she declined, leading to his bitterness towards her.
Ron and Mary asked Paul to write a few letters to him and let him know that they knew it was him.
The letters stopped for a while. Everything seemed quiet. Was this because it truly was David Longberry or was it just a coincidence? Did the true writer have knowledge of the letters and decide David Longberry would make a good scapegoat. The alleged affair became the talk of Circleville. The writer understood the power of gossip.
Ron Gillispie’s Fatal Wreck
Mary and Karen Sue had planned a trip to Florida. As fate would have it, they embarked on their journey to Florida on August 19th 1977 the same day a tragic event unfolded back at their home.
Traci, who was only 8 years old at the time, informed the authorities that her father had been at home and on the phone until around 10:00 pm. Despite both of his children being at home, he left. Traci recounted that he retrieved his gun, kissed her goodbye, and assured her he would return later. This left both Traci and her 15-year-old brother, Eric, alone in the house for the night.
The events surrounding the mysterious phone call remain unclear. Tragically, Ron met a fatal accident shortly after leaving the house. His truck veered off the road near an intersection at Five Points Pike and Darby Turnpike, crashing into a tree. He was pronounced dead at 10:25 pm due to severe head and torso injuries. Sadly, he hadn’t been wearing his seatbelt.
The Investigaton Of Ron Gillispie’s Wreck
The Police investigated the crash scene and the coroner ruled it an accident as he was found to be intoxicated. The blood chemistry report was performed by a pathologist at Brown Laboratories in Columbus Ohio and indicated he was legally intoxicated. With a blood alcohol of zero point sixteen percent, Ron’s judgement coordination and reaction time would have been significantly impaired.
It was mentioned that the gun he took with him had been discharged. A bullet had been fired from it, though this could have occurred a week, a month, or even longer ago.
The Circleville Letters: Sheriff Dwight E. Radcliff
Sheriff Dwight E. Radcliff was the one who identified Ron’s body. On the official identification form, where one typically notes their relationship to the deceased, the Sheriff simply wrote “friend.” He then personally traveled to Ron Gillispie’s parents’ home in Mullenberg Township to deliver the tragic news of their son’s passing.
Paul Freshour, Ron’s brother-in-law, was convinced that Ron had been murdered. This suspicion aligned with the narrative the Circleville Writer aimed to propagate. The Writer started distributing letters to the locals, urging a more in-depth investigation into Ron’s demise.
Following Ron’s death, the mysterious Circleville letters resurfaced. Six years of harassment and unsettling letters to the community and Mary seemed unending. The letters didn’t only target Mary; elected officials also found themselves in the crosshairs. Among them, Sheriff Dwight Radcliff became a prominent target.
The Circleville writer was fervently attempting to tarnish the reputation of the Sheriff. Concurrently, Paul Freshour pointed fingers at the Sheriff for alleged negligence in investigating Ron’s case, firmly believing that Ron had been murdered. Paul accused the Sheriff of corruption, emphasizing the Sheriff’s apparent animosity towards him. In an interview, Paul claimed to be more informed and better connected than the police, expressing surprise that he was never questioned about his knowledge regarding Ron.
The Circleville Letters: Things Quiet Down For A While
Amidst mounting pressure, Mary confessed to having an affair with Gordon Massie. However, she was adamant that the relationship began only after her husband, Ron, had passed away. Despite the revelation, Mary retained her job but soon found herself at the center of town gossip once more. In 1979, after 26 years of marriage, Gordon Massie and Clara decided to part ways through a divorce. Their son, William Massie, was 22 years old at that time.
As time went on, by 1982, Paul and Karen Sue’s marriage reached its breaking point, culminating in a bitter divorce. Karen claimed that Paul had a violent streak, often resorting to physical aggression. In contrast, Paul alleged that Karen had been unfaithful and ensured she was left with nothing post-divorce, even being denied custody of their daughters.
By then, their son was 19 and chose to stay with his mother. The two daughters, aged 12 and 15, might not have had a say in their living arrangements. Karen Sue relocated to the home on her property where she and Ron’s parents had previously resided. Six years had passed since Ron’s death, and the mysterious writer had been silent for a while.
Meanwhile, Mary became romantically involved with Gordon Massie, though the duration of their relationship is not specified. In 1983, when Mary’s daughter Traci was just 13, both she and Mary found themselves on the receiving end of the Circleville Writer’s harassment.
The Circleville Letters: The Booby Trap
On February 7, 1983, while Mary Gillispie was on her bus route collecting students from school, she noticed a disturbing sign regarding her daughter, Traci, and an accusation against Gordon Massie.
She stopped the bus to remove the sign. As she did, she found that the sign was connected to a small cardboard box fixed to a 2×4. A tripwire connected the box to a gun’s trigger. Had she hastily removed the sign, the gun might have discharged towards her. She cautiously detached the box from its post and placed it safely away from the students’ reach inside the bus.
After safely transporting the children home, she inspected the box in her driveway. Recognizing the danger, she immediately took the device to the Sheriff’s office.
During the investigation, it was discovered that the gun belonged to Paul Freshour. Attempts had been made to file off the gun’s serial number, but they were unsuccessful. When questioned about the weapon, Paul told the Sheriff that it had gone missing, but he hadn’t deemed it necessary to report.
On February 25, 1983, Paul was asked to undergo a polygraph test. He denied any involvement in placing the gun in the box Mary found and claimed to have no knowledge of the incident. He also refuted having written or sent any of the anonymous letters being investigated. The test results indicated deception in his responses. Upon further questioning, Paul admitted to penning around 40 to 50 of the letters under scrutiny but continued to deny any involvement or prior knowledge of the gun related incident.
Ron and Mary had only requested Paul to write a handful of letters to Longberry, certainly not 40 or 50. So, who were the recipients of all the other letters?
On March 2, 1983, Mary was asked to undergo a polygraph test. She was questioned about her involvement in the anonymous letters and whether she had placed the gun in the box she handed over to the Sheriff’s office. Mary successfully passed the examination.
The Circleville Letters: Paul Freshour’s Arrest
The Sheriff conducted interviews with numerous suspects and witnesses. Among them were Kenneth Reid and David Longberry. Kenneth Reid supervised the school bus drivers within the school district. However, both Reid and Longberry were eventually cleared of suspicion. A colleague of Karen Sue Freshour reported that in 1983, signs were being posted in their workplace parking lot, accusing Karen Sue of being a lesbian. He mentioned that he had removed many of these signs and stored them in his car trunk before Karen Sue arrived for work.
After evaluating all the evidence, the Sheriff arrested Paul Freshour. He was indicted by a grand jury in March 1983 and scheduled for trial in October of the same year. Throughout, Paul consistently denied orchestrating the letter campaign.
After securing his release on a fifty thousand dollar bond, Paul Freshour voluntarily admitted himself to the Mental Health Center at Riverside Hospital. It’s unclear whether this was a strategic move to potentially plead not guilty by reason of insanity or if the weight of the accusations had genuinely affected his mental well-being. Regardless, this defense was not employed during his trial.
On October 24th, 1983, Paul Freshour faced trial for the attempted murder of his sister-in-law, Mary Gillispie. The trial spanned just a week. Although Paul was never formally charged with writing the letters, 39 of them were admitted as evidence against him.
The prosecution argued that the writing on these letters bore striking similarities to the writing found on the booby trap. A handwriting expert confirmed that Paul Freshour had penned the letters, identifying a match with his handwriting on 391 letters and 103 postcards. Additionally, Paul’s employer testified that Paul was absent from work on the day Mary discovered the dangerous trap. After a mere 2 and a half hours of deliberation, the jury found Paul Freshour guilty of attempted murder. He received the maximum sentence 7 to 25 years.
After Paul Freshour’s incarceration, his ex-wife, Karen Sue, gained custody of their daughters, as well as ownership of their house and any pension benefits. This turn of events led to speculation about Karen Sue’s possible involvement in framing her ex-husband. Could her resentment from the divorce have driven her to implicate him, even if it meant endangering Mary Gillisipie?
Interestingly, a colleague of Mary’s reported seeing a yellow El Camino parked near the location of the booby trap just twenty minutes before Mary came across it. A tall man with sandy hair was spotted near the vehicle, seemingly attending to personal needs. Despite this lead being present in the Sheriff’s records, there’s no documented evidence indicating any follow up.
However, rumors circulated that Karen Sue’s brother owned a yellow El Camino, a detail later verified by the show Unsolved Mysteries.
In his closing statement, Paul Freshour’s attorney alluded to Karen Sue’s potential motives. He asked, Who harbored enough animosity towards Paul to implicate him, if you examine the divorce decree, who stands to benefit financially if Paul is found guilty and incarcerated?
While Paul’s imprisonment might seem like the end of the story, it was far from over. Even as he served his sentence, and notably during periods in solitary confinement, the letters continued to circulate within the community.
Some of these letters bore Paul’s fingerprints. However, once it was confirmed that he couldn’t have possibly dispatched them from his confinement, it became evident that he had an accomplice.
Given the time he had while out on bail, he could have pre-written numerous letters, ensuring they carried his fingerprints to sow doubt and fuel speculation. The lingering question remained: who could have been his accomplice?
While in prison he received a letter from the supposed Circleville writer telling him that the writer set him up and he wasn’t getting out. Other letters were being sent out that accused the prosecutor in Paul’s trial, Roger Kline, of murdering a pregnant woman and Doctor Ray Carroll, a family physician and the Pickaway County Coroner of being indecent with children and young women.
The Circleville Letters: The Postcard To Unsolved Mysteries
Unsolved Mysteries decided to do a segment on the Circleville Writer. In December of 1993, a postcard was received by the TV show, Unsolved Mysteries, telling them not to come to Ohio you el sickos will pay. They came and nothing happened. Was this a way for the Circleville writer to get more attention?
The Circleville letter writer case remains unsolved to this day. While the town has moved forward, the scars left by the letters continue to shape the community’s collective memory. The letters stand as a testament to the harm that anonymous cruelty can inflict and serve as a somber reminder of the consequences of unresolved mysteries. The legacy of the Circleville letter writer lives on, forever etched into the town’s history.
To find out more detail about the story and people involved watch the video at the beginning of the story it contains much more information about the mysterious case of the Circleville Letter Writer.