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Mid-Century True Crime – the Swap-Mate Murder

The true story of New England wife swapping and a murder mystery

Here’s a treat for all of us true-crime junkies. It is a story told in the March 1959 edition of Cosmopolitan magazine. Get this. It involves wife-swapping parties. Yup. That’s where mid-century couples would enter a party together but leave with a randomly selected partner of a fellow party-goer. The wife would select a house key out of a hat. The owner of the housekey would be the wife’s lover for the night.

But wait. The story gets more interesting. It involves a murder.

The murder, investigation, and trial are all described in the article written by George Scullin. It reads like a Hollywood script. Although the article was published in 1959, the story actually took place a bit earlier. It begins in 1953.

The image above shows the first page of the article, but I have cut out a bit of the text because it tells who did it. The story is more interesting if you don’t know who the murderer is.

I’ll let you read a few of the details from the article below, and tomorrow I’ll reveal the ending and provide a link so you can download the article and read it yourself. For now, read about the setting and characters and try to guess who was killed, and who was sent to prison for life.

The Setting – The New England towns of Amesbury and Newburyport

The author describes the quaint town of Amesbury and “upper set” town of Newburyport as the setting for this true tale.

If the truth ever gets out about some of the parties around here, a lot of young couples will have to leave home

The Characters

Lorraine Clark
Mother of 3 who married Melvin, her high school sweetheart at 17. She was said to be sweet and beautiful–the perfect wife and mother. Talked with a high-picthed voice. Worked part time as a waitress to make ends meet. Was 27 when the murder took place.

Melvin Clark
Handsome World War 2 veteran. Married Lorraine at 19 before he left to serve in the Navy. After the war, worked in the television tube department for Columbia Broadcasting system. Studied on the side to seek a college degree. Built their Lake Attitash home and worked to repair boats in hopes to some day have a boat rental business.

Arthur Jackson
Family friend. Lorraine’s lover.

The Set
Consisted of some 20 couples sophisticated members of the elite of Amesbury, Newburyport, and Salisbury Beach with occasional guest couples from Boston and the art colony at Glouchester. Thought that faithfulness was for the unenlightened. View that having sex was a purely physical manifestation. They got together monthly to play the key game.

Into a hat the men tossed their flat, brass, remarkably similar house keys. A brisk shaking, and then into the hat groped the wives at a given signal. To whatever master of the key belonged, so belonged for the night the woman.

The Murder

The murder took place in the early hours of Palm Sunday at Melvin and Lorraine’s home on the shores of Lake Attitash. Death by gunshot. The body was put in a car and driven to the Rocks Village bridge where it was dumped in the river below.

The Mystery – Who Done It?

Who do you think was the killer, who was killed, and why? The specifics will be revealed tomorrow.

1 comment on “Mid-Century True Crime – the Swap-Mate Murder

  1. Pingback: Mid-Century True Crime – The Melvin Clark Murder – Mid-Century Page

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