The Strange and Abnormal: Dear Circleville

Ava Ferrigno, Features Editor

Circleville is a small, “everyone-knows-everyone” town located in Ohio. For many years, it was a suburb very few bothered to notice or care about. However, in 1976, residents began receiving letters from an anonymous writer who exposed their dark and personal secrets in a vulgar manner, bringing Circleville into national limelight.

The letters were directed at one couple in particular. Mary Gillispie was accused of having an affair with the schools’ superintendent and was told to “admit the truth and inform the school board,” or else she would face further public humiliation. She denied the relationship, though later stating that the liaison only began after the letters were sent, which seems very suspicious on her part.

It appeared that the writer was close to the Gillispie’s, so the couple began their own investigation, calling a meeting that involved their loved ones. No one confessed outright, but Mary Gillispie had her suspicions.

In 1977, Ron Gillispie received a call, most likely from the writer, that infuriated him enough to grab his gun, storm out of the house, and leave in his car. Later that evening, Gillispie was found dead in his vehicle, which had smashed into a tree. The gun was fired, but the reason remains unknown.

The authorities deemed the crash to be an accident, but the writer himself told the public that it was a coverup, leading for people to believe that the author finally took aggressive action.

By this time, Mary Gillispie was sick of being harassed by this writer, and when she passed a sign describing her affair, she ripped it down. Behind it was a box, and when Mary opened it, she found a pistol facing her. It was a booby trap created to kill whomever opened it, however, it had failed to detonate.

The police were able to trace the gun back to Paul Freshour, Ron’s brother in law. Freshour claimed that it had been missing for a while and had a solid alibi for the majority of that day. Despite this, Freshour had his handwriting tested against the letters in a faulty manner, which the authorities deemed to be a match, and was convicted of attempted murder.

Paul Freshour should not have been sentenced since it does not appear that he had committed any crime. When Freshour was in jail, the letters continued; even he received a taunting threat. One could claim he had an accomplice, but wouldn’t he have ratted him out after suffering for both of their actions? Secondly, Freshour had no known motive that would call for the ruination of not only his brother in law’s family, but of the entire town.

It seems as if he was set up by a person with a grudge against Circleville. A booby trap is a highly unpredictable and unreliable way to murder someone, which leads most to believe that the gun trap’s purpose was not to murder Mary, but rather frame Paul.

Paul Freshour, who unfairly rotted in jail for 10 years, continued to proclaim his innocence until he died in 2012. The true culprit, perhaps Mary who just wanted attention or to be with her true love at last, roams free.