Ansell Regrettal: A Ross Township Donnybrook

Santa Claus lawn ornament with protest signs against Ross Township leadership

Merry Christmas from Ross Township

“A man curses because he doesn’t have the words to say what’s on his mind.” — Malcolm X

This grew-up-in-The-South-where-we-don’t-wear-watches-or-curse blogger has tacitly agreed with Mr. X, though it was mainly because he finds the habit so ugly…and uncreative…and put on. People who cuss a lot always seem like they’re play-acting clichéd roles they’ve seen in tough-guy movies, or they’re trying to impress or intimidate somebody. That said, it would be hard to suggest that Bill Ansell has any difficulty expressing what’s on his mind, and he uses plenty of four-letter-words to do it.

Regular readers of The Orbit will appreciate that this digital publication generally steers clear of both controversy and vulgarity. Perhaps it is fitting, then, that today’s post breaks with past rules, mores, and highfalutin standards with a story all about salty language, neighbor-against-neighbor suburban strife, Christmas gone bad, and one guy who refuses to play by the rules. Those easily offended should probably stop right here.

White pickup truck loaded with plastic lawn ornaments, children's toys, and a portatoilet, Ross Township, PA

“My other car is a sleigh”

In addition to not liking the blue language, we also hate to get scooped. But even though this story has been going around for years, it was new to us. It goes back at least to 2007 when Bill Ansell, a Ross Township electrician, began to have a series of run-ins with his neighbors, the municipality, and the local constabulary as documented in the William Ansell v. Ross Township suit. In a nutshell, the case seems to revolve around Ansell’s over-the-top holiday displays, ensuing complaints from his neighbors, and some amount of legal action. More recently, WPXI ran a report on Ansell re-lighting his uniquely-offensive string of lights. [More on this, below.] Seeing these reports with their blurred images of the offending words and vague reports of detritus in the Ansell yard, we knew we had to see the place for ourselves.

Plastic head on cross with "Security cameras in use" sign, Ross Township, PA

This guy is watching you

And what a sight it is to see! Tiny Fairley Road is really just a paved circle containing seven otherwise unremarkable residences. Bill Ansell’s is the only house sitting in the island formed by the looped street and as such, it has a large, awkwardly-shaped oval plot. About a third of the yard is covered with blue plastic tarps with an array of broken children’s toys and mangled plastic Christmas displays holding down the fabric. At the property’s edge are a series of plastic (mannequin?) heads on staked crosses featuring Warning: security cameras in use signs and hand-written inscriptions like “God’s country.” Ansell’s white pickup truck is parked on the street and comes loaded with a Santa-sized cargo of discarded toys, holiday lawn ornaments, and one portatoilet. The side yard has a chorus of headless carolers, each with a safety helmet over its empty neck hole, and a home-made light-up arrow sign that reads Neighbor is a thief.

Handmade wooden sign with arrow reading "Neighbor is a Thief" with choir member lawn ornaments missing heads, Ross Township, PA

“Neighbor is a Thief”, headless choir

If it ended there, this would just be an oddball story about somebody getting a little nutty with the lawn decoration. But it is the front of the house that really takes this story from News of the Weird to, uh, Village of the Damned.  There is more playground equipment, one Santa Claus that lights up to appear as if urinating electrons, and then there are the crazy-man banners. Nine large boards, each hand lettered in precise stencils, act as an open hail of rage against what appears to be everyone who’s ever questioned Ansell’s displays: the commissioners of Ross Township, Ansell’s neighbors (and their children), and the Ross police force.

Christmas lights arranged to spell "Fuck Ross Township", Ross Township, PA

The lights that started it all, lit up in the only decent photo we could find [photo: Brody Barbour]

If you’ve followed this story at all, you know that Ansell’s coup de grâce is a string of Christmas lights that spell out FUCK ROSS TOWNSHIP in giant letters that span the full width of the house. We went back at night to get a photo, but alas, they were dark–the township and Ansell seem to have reached some accord on this particular issue. Rest assured, everything else on the property was lit up like some weird prison holiday scene. Huge outward-facing flood lights seemed aimed to catch–or at least intimidate–would-be vandals and assailants. At the same time, bladder-control Santa, the carolers, one headless wise man, etc. had their eyes all aglow in the hopes that Uncle Bill might bring them a new cardboard screed to darken the new year.

Head of wise man lawn ornament, Ross Township, PA

Maybe not-so-wise man

The Orbit would love to get Bill Ansell’s side of the story, but frankly, we’re scared of him. The threat “there will be bloodshed” for “enter(ing) or touch(ing) anything on (Ansell’s) property” seems pretty clear. The arrest details from the court case list a number of loaded weapons stored in the house and kept at arm’s reach, including a shotgun and several pistols, so he certainly seems well-equipped for violence. We’ll do our reporting from the public space on the pavement, thank you very much.

handmade protest signs on house, Ross Township, PA

It is a strange, sad scene, indeed. Pittsburgh Orbit has made a theme of celebrating the rapidly-disappearing evidence of life actually touched by the human hand as well as endeavors at creativity and individualism in all areas–hell, that’s why we’re reporting this story. Bill Ansell certainly possesses all of these. But the untethered anger, armed threats of violence, and extreme paranoia are a lethal combination we sadly hear about all the time. These usually end with a candlelight vigil and a Republican call for prayer. Hey–maybe it will work this time! To the fine people of Ross Township, and especially those immediate neighbors on Fairley Road, we feel for you.

UPDATE (16 December, 2016): A previous version of this story included the FUCK ROSS TOWNSHIP photo credited to “unknown/The Internet”. The photographer, Brody Barbour has since alerted us to his authorship and we’ve updated the credit.



22 thoughts on “Ansell Regrettal: A Ross Township Donnybrook

    • S jones says:

      I remember his house and how we so looked forward to what my children called the “Gingerbread House”” his decorations were great!!! It brought smiles to many faces. It was sad the result that it came to.


  1. Jimmy Reagan says:

    I can’t take any grown person seriously that doesn’t know the difference between “there”, “their” and “they’re”. It’s basic elementary school English, and it shows a lack of reasoning and basic common sense. This story is so ridiculous. I feel bad for anyone living around these morons.


    • Alice Marie Brown says:

      I love you. lol. Sadly, my kids have had several teachers and even one principal who suffered this same lack of attention to detail. If they don’t know it, they can’t teach it and then the art is lost. As for the reporting, the more details that come to light, the worse this story is; it seems the whole place is riddled with toxic neighbor relationships and the wasting of tax dollars for petty grievances.


      • Bill from Texas says:

        Just for the record, it’s certainly not a “petty grievance” if a neighbor has systematically destroyed your home value and equity, has called you and you’re family every name in the book with signs on his dumpy rat tra trap, and been the worst neighbor on the planet. The neighbors are not the toxic poison hear. It’s Ansell and the township has not got the spine to enforce the court orders for him to cease and desist. How would you like to wake up every day and see Santa pissing toward you’re trailer!!! You are an enabler. It’s far from petty. It’s criminal.


  2. Brody Barbour says:

    I took this picture! I got out of my car, but I didn’t want them to see me so I had to do it quickly. I took it last year right around this time. Glad you used my picture!!


  3. Apple Store New Orleans says:

    The neighbors or the city needs to make a deal with him. I say write him a blank check for all the Christmas lights his heart desires, but his display has to be positive and tasteful. You could turn this whole thing around and make it into a happy Christmas story, and people from all over the state can come see the house and be happy.


    • Alice Marie Brown says:

      if only it were that simple. this is the problem: he had an amazingly lovely display that all sorts of people flocked to see (look it up on the web, there’s pics out there). the neighbors filed complaints because of the traffic jams it caused citing that they couldn’t get into their own driveways. then one thanksgiving, his bullying neighborhood c*** asked him to “tone down” [his cheery display as she and her family were trying to enjoy dinner] like WTF? I don’t blame him for going grinch. nah, these snobby, ill-mannered, beastly neighbors who put their fake “boo hoo feel sorry for us” public faces on the tv to make all feel sorry for them and in effect are legally, socially, and now through attempted use of media to reach a greater societal audience are bullying this guy -yet again- and getting their just deserts. they attack him for having a nice display, they attack him for this one… there is much more to the complexity of this story, but as far as decorations, these complaintive neighbors won’t be pleased, so why bother? I think it is evident that he had several personal issues made public and was going through much difficulty in legal areas and these people decided complaints against him was the easiest way to get the unwanted troublemaker out of their neighborhood. now they pay the price. if he had received convictions on all the accounts, I can’t blame them for wanting him out, but they also had the option to move themselves instead of going this route. manipulative bullies suck and that is what those neighbors are.


      • Bill from Texas says:

        Hey ..they can’t sell and move. Would you buy a home on that road? Try to think. I know it’s hard. The Ansell brothers are horrible neighbors. All these people have done is try to do the right thing legally. What would you do? It’s a case of a bitter lonely man who hates everybody and he has essentially destroyed their home values because he was asked nicely to tone it down. Immature is putting it mildly. They are not bullies..they are neighbors going broke because of one mans obsession and harassment. He is a pathetic soulless turd…


      • Jojo says:

        “then one thanksgiving”

        So he already had his full Christmas light display up on Thanksgiving? Just how early did he start? Maybe if he had waited until at least December the whole thing wouldn’t have happened. Or if they never built a house in the middle of a cul de sac area. Why couldn’t they leave it to nature?


  4. Mike says:

    I can understand the neighbors feelings about a nice but overdone display, and dealing with it every year. But he doesn’t have to go psycho on them either. I have been on both sides of this kind of thing. Some people don’t know how to communicate and behave like adults. And some people just don’t know how to get a grip and move on. It’s a terrible thing for a lot of people in this world.


  5. Lorelie says:

    If I had the money I would love to be his neighbor. Neighbors could’ve put signs or cones something to make sure people didn’t block their driveway Instead of complaining about all his beautiful lights and decorations they could’ve decorated their own homes with a few strands of lights it and decorations. They took his Christmas spirit away from him.


    • Jojo says:

      Well the people who liked his display could have offered to buy the neighbors’ homes. Then they could have had that Christmas display from at least Thanksgiving – if not before to well after Christmas probably. Yet you haven’t heard of any of those saying they liked his display of trying to purchase a home on that street even though I’m sure the neighbors will sell at a bargain price.


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