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The Anonymous Letters Terrorized an Ohio Town

CBS News looks at the decades-old mystery
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2021 9:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – The weirdness began in Circleville, Ohio, in 1977. And, spoiler alert, though CBS News' 48 Hours digs way deep into the decades-old mystery, it remains one with plenty of theories and no certainty. In March of that year, anonymous letters started appearing in mailboxes accusing residents of everything from embezzlement to murder. Most were sent from Columbus, about 30 miles away. Some, sent to bus driver Mary Gillispie, warned her to stop having an affair with school superintendent Gordon Massie. She says there was no such affair, but letters alleging that were also sent to her husband, Ron Gillispie, among others. He got a call five months later and told his daughter he was going to confront the letter writer; he died in a car accident on the way, in what some still claim was murder. And that's just the start of the story.

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Mary Gillispie says that in the wake of her husband's death she did begin an affair with Massie. Fast-forward to 1983: Gillispie was on her bus route when she saw a sign on a fence that had a vulgar statement about her teen daughter. When she tried to take it down, she realized it was booby-trapped with twine, a box, and a gun. The gun was traced to Paul Freshour, who was in the middle of divorcing wife Karen Sue—the late Ron Gillispie's sister. From there, it just gets weirder. Karen Sue claimed her husband was the letter writer; he was found guilty of the attempted murder of Mary Gillispie and served 10 years in prison—during which time hundreds were sent by the Circleville letter writer. Freshour had no access to pens or paper. Could he somehow be behind them? Was he framed by his soon-to-be ex? What do handwriting experts say? Read the full story to find out. (Read more Longform stories.)

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