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The Unsolved Mystery of the Circleville Letters

The controversy over who wrote the Circleville Letters still rages today.

The controversy over who wrote the Circleville Letters still rages today.

The Circleville Letters

The Circleville Letters were a series of anonymous letters sent to residents of Circleville, Ohio, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The letters caused fear and turmoil within the community, and despite numerous investigations and even a criminal conviction, the true undisputed identity of the letter writer has not been determined.

The case remains one of the most intriguing unsolved mysteries in Ohio's history, and it serves as a reminder of the power of anonymous letters and the damage they can cause.


The first letter was sent to Mary Gillispie, a school bus driver, in 1976. The letter contained accusations of the recipient having an extramarital affair with the school superintendent. Mary denied the allegations and went to the police for help. However, the letters continued to be sent to other residents of Circleville, including Mary's husband, who was also accused of infidelity.

As the strange correspondence proliferated, the community became increasingly fearful and paranoid.

Impact on the Community

The letters were not only sent to individuals but also to local businesses and organizations. Many residents changed their phone numbers and unlisted them in an attempt to avoid being targeted.

Some of the letters contained eerily specific, private details, leading investigators to suspect that the perpetrator was someone who was familiar with the community and had access to personal information.

In addition to accusations of infidelity, the letters also contained threats of violence and even death.


The Circleville Letters case was investigated by the local police department for several years, but despite their efforts, the identity of the perpetrator was never discovered.

The police conducted numerous interviews with residents, including those who had received letters, in an attempt to identify potential suspects and gather information about the case. They also examined handwriting samples and forensic evidence, but were unable to find any conclusive evidence linking a specific individual to the letters.

The police also offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for the letters, but it produced no actionable leads. Investigators went as far as to use handwriting analysis, polygraph tests and even hypnosis to try and identify the letter writer, but all those efforts were in vain.

An Arrest and Conviction

In 1983, a local businessman, Paul Freshour, was arrested and charged with writing the letters. He was convicted and sentenced to prison, but he maintained his innocence and claimed that he was being framed. Freshour spent a decade in prison and, incredibly, the letters continued while he was incarcerated.

Then, in 1994, soon after his release, the letters stopped. This raised questions about the validity of his conviction, and it is still a point of controversy.


Over the years, a number of theories have been put forward to explain the Circleville Letters.

A Group of People

One theory is that the letters were not written by one person, but rather by a group of people. This theory is based on the idea that it would have been difficult for one person to have access to all of the personal information contained in the letters. This theory could also explain why the letters continued to be sent even after Paul Freshour was arrested and convicted.

A Marketing Campaign

Another theory is that the letters were part of a marketing campaign gone wrong. According to this theory, a marketing company or individual was attempting to generate buzz and interest in a product or service by sending the anonymous letters.

The theory suggests that the letter writer intended for the letters to be seen as a joke or prank, but they quickly spiraled out of control and caused real harm to the community.

Personal Grudge

Some people believe that the letters were written by someone with a personal grudge against the community or specific individuals. This theory is based on the idea that the letters were intended to cause harm and that the letter writer had a personal motivation for writing them.

Mental Illness

It's possible that the letter writer suffered from some form of mental illness or personality disorder that led them to write the letters. The person might have been in a delusional state and believed that the letters were necessary to expose certain secrets or bring about some form of justice or public disclosure.

Government Conspiracy

And, as expected, some people believe that the letters were part of a government conspiracy, possibly involving a secret organization or agency. This theory is based on the idea that the private information contained in the letters was too specific to be the work of a civilian individual, and that the effort was somehow connected to a larger plot.

However, there is no concrete evidence to support this theory, and it remains largely speculative.

It's important to note that none of these theories have been proven and they are all speculative. The true identity of the letter writer and the reason behind the letters may never be known, but the case serves as a reminder of the power of anonymous letters and defamatory accusations and the damage it can cause to a small community.

A Twist in 2022? Circleville Letters Update

In 2022, 48 Hours tackled the case, interviewing podcasters and investigators with new information about the Freshour trial and analysis of the letters.