Anonymous letters threaten to expose an Ohio town’s rumored secrets

Forensic expert says she knows who the Circleville letter writer is

Imagine the shock and fear of finding in your mailbox a poison pen letter from someone who claims to know your deepest secrets. And what happens when the letters continue, and your friends and neighbors begin receiving them too? It may sound like a plot from a thriller, but, in fact, a very real flood of anonymous letters terrorized a small town in Central Ohio for nearly 20 years.  And the letters didn’t stop even after a man went to prison.

Today, the question of the identity of the mastermind behind the poison pen letters continues to divide the town of Circleville, where many people still believe the wrong person went to prison. I take a look at the case that is the subject of numerous podcasts in “The Circleville Letters.”

in Columbus, Ohio, just 30 miles north of Circleville, a quaint town best known for its annual Pumpkin Show that attracts, according to the town’s website, more than 400,000 visitors a year. Nowhere on that website, however, is a mention of the other event that also put a spotlight on the town: the campaign of menacing letters that began sometime in the late 1970s.

The mainly handwritten, anonymous letters initially focused on Gordon Massie, the married Westfall School superintendent whom the writer accused of having an affair with a school bus driver by the name of Mary Gillispie. But soon, Gillispie herself, her husband, Ron, and even their children became the target of letters that grew in number and in vitriol. In time, nearly everyone in town either received a letter or knew someone who did.


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