In yesterday’s post, I introduced the true crime story told in the March 1959 edition of Cosmopolitan magazine titled, “The Sordid End to the Swap-Mate Scandal”. This fascinating true crime murder mystery began in 1953 and involved Mel and Lorraine Clark, a seemingly perfect mid-century couple.
Intertwined with the story are details about the so-called wife-swapping parties that were happening in the Clark’s community of Amesbury, MA area at the time.
The article was written by George Scullin and reads like a movie script. It can be downloaded below.
Since the article is a bit lengthy, I’ve simplified the story and with the summary below (although for all the juicy details, you’ll want to read the original article).
Lorraine and Mel Clark
Melvin and Lorraine Clark were a young married couple with 3 children. The pair lived in the outskirts of Amesbury, Massachusetts and struggled to make ends meet. He worked the over night shift in a nearby town and she waited tables part time at a diner. The kids stayed with their grandparents while she worked. She was beautiful and he was handsome. The two were described as the perfect couple with adoring children. Having married at age 17, she did not finish high school.
In the early 1950’s rumors started about a sophisticated and elite group of couples who hosted wife swapping parties in Amesbury and the nearby community of Newburyport. It was a secret group and few knew who participated in the parties. The folks in the conservative community talked about the group with distain. This was especially true for the sweet and naive Lorraine Clark.
The Disappearance of Mel Clark
In April 1954, Lorraine reported to her parents that she had a fight with Mel and he had given her a bruised face. Meanwhile, Mel’s parents reported him missing. It was assumed that he left Lorraine and the kids to pursue a new life elsewhere. Lorraine began divorce proceedings due to abandonment.
The Discovery of a Body
In June, 1954, a dead body was found in the mucky waters of the Merrimack about 50 miles downstream from Amesbury. The body was quite decomposed, but they were able to determine that it was Mel Clark. The coroner determined that he died from a single gunshot and multiple stabbing wounds. Lorraine was originally suspected as the killer, but her grief and sweet disposition made them look elsewhere. After further investigation, they found traces of blood and a bullet in the home of Mel and Lorraine. By now, they were convinced that Lorraine was the killer, but there was no motive and only circumstantial evidence.
The attention-seeking Arthur Jackson
Family friend Arthur Jackson sought out the police with a big tale to tell. He told the police that he knew all about The Set and their wife swapping parties. He said that Lorraine was not as innocent as she appeared. In fact, the two of them were lovers, and were active members of The Set.
Thanks to the information provided by Arthur Jackson, the police had what they needed to arrest Lorraine. She eventually confessed to the murder and her secret life.
She had discovered that she enjoyed the attention of men. Since Mel worked nights, she began to have affairs. It was Arthur Jackson who was her partner in The Set’s wife-swapping parties. She, a high-school drop out loved being part of such an elite group. Lorraine with her sweetness and beauty made her a favorite partner among the men of The Set.
One night Mel left work early because he didn’t feel well. When he got home, he discovered Lorraine’s infidelity. He pleaded with his wife to think of the children and to stop her partying.
Lorraine kept a loaded gun in her home for protection during her nights alone. In a moment of rage, she grabbed the gun and shot Mel dead and then stabbed him several times with a knitting needle. Mel had fought back, which explained her bruises.
Knowing she needed to dispose of the body, she drove to a spot in the Merrimack polluted by chemical plants up river dumping enough waste to turn the water into an acid bath.
By now, the trial of Lorraine Clark was the top story. The country waited eagerly to hear the details of the trial. She plead guilty to 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
Arthur Jackson’s Prison Term for Adultery
In true mid-century fashion, there was a surprise 2nd conviction. It was Arthur Jackson, the lover. He served 3 years in prison for the act of committing adultery.