Frontier Town Chapel Scene of Susan Hughey Kemper Irving R. Swanson Wedding
The chapel at Frontier Town was the setting for the wedding of Susan Hughey Kemper and Irving R. Swanson. Standards of white chrysanthemums and pink gladioli, tied with pink ribbon, decorated the sanctuary. The Rev. Roland S. Rasar officiated at the double ring rites in the presence of 30 relatives of the couple.
The bride is the daughter of Mrs. Edmund Emil Kemper, Jr., of Helena and Edmund Emil Kemper Jr., of North Hollywood, Calif. Her husband is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick E. Swanson of Big Timber.
Escorted by Brother
Given in marriage by her brother, [Ed] Guy Kemper, the bride wore a street-length, white sheath dress styled with scoop neckline and full, lace overskirt attached at the waistline with two pearls. She wore matching lace mitts, gathered at the wrist with seed pearls, and carried a white Bible topped with baby pink roses and shattered carnations tied with white streamers.
The bride’s shoulder-length veil of silk illusion cascaded from a circlet of pearls. Her jewelry, a single pearl pendant, was a gift of the bridegroom.
Sharon McDowell was maid of honor. Her gown of blue was similar in design to the one worn by the bride. She chose dyed-to-match shoes and a small pink headpiece of flowers and veiling. She carried pink carnations tied with white lace.
Mrs. Kemper chose a navy-blue shantung dress with peplum for her daughter’s wedding. The mother of the bridegroom chose an emerald green satin sheath dress. Each wore pink accessories and a pink corsage of roses and carnations.
Ray Swanson acted as best man for his brother. Harvey Jung, cousin of the bride, seated the guests.
Mrs. Tate Peek played traditional nuptial music on the chapel’s antique organ before and during the ceremony. Two candelabra, holding white candles decorated with sprays of lily-of-the-valley and white streamers, decorated the table for a reception dinner in the Frontier Town dining room.
The five-tier wedding cake, decorated with white roses and white bells, was topped by two white satin bells ringed with pearls and shot with tulle. Elnora Jung, aunt of the bride, cut and served the cake. Sylvia Newburn of New York had charge of the guest book and assisted Mrs. Jung with the gifts.
Reside in Bozeman
Since returning from a wedding trip to Glacier Park, the newlyweds reside in Bozeman, where the bridegroom is employed by Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co. He is a Navy veteran.
For traveling, the bride chose a navy blue and white suit with navy blue cummerbund, blue jewelry, white accessories and a red corsage.
The bride, who attended North Hollywood High School and Helena High School, was employed at St. Peter’s Hospital prior to her marriage.
Wedding guests included Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Swanson, Michael and Cherie, and Mr. and Mrs. Duane Kirkpatrick, Douglas and David, all of Livingston. Swanson and Mrs. Kirkpatrick are a brother and sister of the bride-groom.
Prior to her marriage, the bride was honored at a miscellaneous shower given by Miss McDowell at the home of Mrs. Jung.
Source: The Independent Record, Helena, Montana, Sunday, July 23, 1961
Ed Kemper and his older sister Susan Swanson discussed the Santa Cruz murders and Herbert Mullin in April 1973 before Kemper’s arrest: “Guy [Kemper’s nickname] and I discussed them one day when mom and I went to the university to borrow a movie projector so I could show a movie I had brought from home [in Montana]. There was something said about Mullin firing his attorney because he had long hair, and I asked Guy if he thought Mullin had done the co-ed slayings too. He said he didn’t because none of them were similar in any way to how his victims had been shot–then the subject was dropped. The first weekend I was there, Guy went to Turlock and picked up [Kemper’s fiancée] and brought her to mom’s. We went to San Francisco that weekend Mom, I, [Kemper’s fiancée], and Guy, and along the road he mentioned that down there, pointing to the right, was where they had found two girls propped up against something I don’t remember the exact area. We drove along the coast highway, but this was a hilly section inland, just a bit. I believe it was just south of San Jose. Another time, I commented on the girls hitchhiking and mentioned they weren’t too bright, considering what happened and the particular ones I mentioned were really dressed shabby. He said it was strange because some of the co-eds killed were very attractive girls, not hippie looking at all. I think this was mentioned at the same time the conversation about Mullin was discussed on the way to the university. The subject changed. He didn’t say or do anything strange or comment any more than anyone might comment because of what had been happening.”
“One day when we were driving from Aptos along the beach toward Santa Cruz, just sightseeing, [Kemper] pointed off toward the beach and mentioned that a girl’s head was washed up along there -no more was said, and he brought it up.”
“Several times while we were riding around while I was there he would notice a girl and really stare, not just look or glance, and I teased him that he’d better get out of that habit when he gets married or [Kemper’s fiancée] would sure get jealous. He said she’s used to it or something along that line and most of these girls were dark skinned, possibly Mexican heritage, with black hair and medium build, tending toward heavy. He also commented that he sure likes those big butts- again I just passed it off and went on to other talk.”
Source: Book “Murder Capital of the World” by Emerson Murray, 2021 / Photo: Yearbook, University of Southern California, 1964
When Ed Kemper was arrested in August 1964 after murdering his grandparents, his mother, Clarnell Strandberg, and his older sister, Susan Swanson, were interviewed by doctors and social workers from the Atascadero State Hospital where Kemper was imprisoned for the next five years.
Clarnell Strandberg: “She [Kemper’s older sister, Susan] was always responsible for and protective of Guy [Kemper’s nickname] while I worked. Sometimes protected him from my discipline out of misguided love. He and Sue were close until she began to mature and then Allyn, my fourteen-year-old daughter and he had a close relationship-however his needs were building and hers were normal and gregarious and outgoing and she had friends he resented.”
Susan Swanson: “As far back as I can remember, Guy has wanted to be by himself, he has seemed to be happier when there was only family. He never seemed too interested in participating in activities with other children. We seemed fairly close at times, but if something didn’t go Guy’s way he would get awfully mad, not as if he were spoiled and throwing a tantrum but mad at everyone… All kinds of things would bother him, like the way my kids would cry or when my little girl would be drooling or spitting I would never hear the end of it from Guy. Sounds of a constant coughing or crying or heavy breathing would really upset him.”
Source (text and photo): Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021
Some time in March 1973, Ed [Guy] Kemper and his mother went off-roading in a jeep and Clarnell injured her shoulder. Kemper’s sister, Susan Swanson, came and stayed with Kemper and his mother on April 1:
“A little vacation and also it would be a good time to go down and help mom with her stuff that she couldn’t handle with her broken shoulder. So, it was kind of a two-way visit. So, I went down the first of April and I came home on the 19th. In fact, I missed all this by forty hours, which was very shattering to me. It was a beautiful nineteen days. [Kemper killed his mother on April 21st]. During the days, Guy would sleep an awful lot, he would get up maybe at noon or two o’clock. Either that, or I understood him to be going off with friends during the day, like target practicing or something. He might leave oh, around noon or something and come back around dinner time or whatever. Some days, he’d just kind of hang around the house or be gone for a couple of hours and then he and I would do things during the day. I would take mom to school to work and then I’d come back and kind of clean up the apartment while Guy was asleep and then when he’d wake up we’d either go do something or he’d go do something and I would just, you know, drive around or sightsee, or whatever. In the evening, I would pick mom up from school and Guy most always was gone in the evening. He would go to the Jury Room a lot or go to the show, or… as far as the accuracy, whether he was really there or not, I don’t know; but he was gone in the evenings a lot, and would get home quite late- two or three in the morning. And he drank quite a bit, of beer. For breakfast, he had two large cans of beer and he seemed to be able to hold beer quite well. I mean, it would take quite a bit before you would notice any signs that he had been drinking. I never saw him drunk. I never saw him staggering. I never saw him slurring his speech or anything.
“I’ve never taken lessons in judo or karate, but I have picked up a few little things, I’m fascinated with the tournaments, watching the art. I wanted to show [Kemper] this new throw that I had just picked up on television. Well, being 6’9″, or whatever, I’m 6’1″, or 6’1/2” myself, and not any weakling, and I was going to show him how the throw goes and I couldn’t even waver him on his feet and he says, he’s standing there with his hands on his hips saying, “What are you doing? What are you trying to do?”
“I said, “Oh, I’m going to throw you.” You know. We clowned around and made little fake karate chops and say, if I came around a corner or something and he was coming around at the same time, kind of like a surprise, not to surprise each other, but just bumping into each other coming around the corner, we’d go POW POW, and a few little phony karate things and the most scary thing right now is he would make a motion like he, with his hands in a karate chop, had lapped off my head and then held his hands out like he caught it. And laughed. And I would laugh. Because it seemed so funny, you know, this karate business, ho ho, and we were just playing around with it all the time. And this motion especially now, just this WHAP, and make his hands like he’s catching my head–and I’d laugh. I can’t believe this now.”
Source: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021 / Photo: Ancestry, Yearbook, University of Southern California, 1963
From a 1973 interview with Susan Swanson, Ed Kemper’s oldest sister, where she recalled his mood in 1964, after their father left him with his parents at their ranch in the mountains in North Fork, California:
“So, after that school year, while he was fifteen, he came home to Montana for summer vacations. I spent time with him, I was living back in Helena then, I was still married – in fact, I was three weeks away from having my third child. We spent a lot of time together. He seemed, oh, I don’t know, he was… He could have fun, he could laugh, he could play and be silly and visit and stuff like that, but deep down he seemed awfully hurt. Like you know, it really sunk in that his dad didn’t want him and this still intensified his love for his father. He just kept reaching and grabbing for him. So, we took him fishing and all kinds of things and then he went back down to Madera and it was just, oh, a matter of a couple of weeks later that he killed his grandparents.”
Source: Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021 https://www.emersonmurray.com/murder-capital-of-the-world / Photo: Pete Amos
“You know, wooing and dating, you’re one thing, but after you’re married you let it all hang out. She was just too powerful. She would drive them (the men in her life) away, attack them verbally, attack their manhood.”
Ed Kemper about his mother
Ed Kemper’s mother, Clarnell Strandberg née Stage, according to her son, apparently was a real man-hater. Whatever the truth may have been on that front, she was persevering and married three times. She told the social workers that she kept trying to find a suitable husband “because the boy needed a father”-a motivation that they cynically tended to discount.
1. Edmund Emil Kemper Jr
Her first husband was Kemper’s father, Edmund Kemper Jr. It was also his first marriage. Edmund Emil Kemper Jr was born to Edmund Emil Kemper Sr and Maude Matilda Hughey Kemper in Los Angeles, California, on April 27, 1919.
Edmund Jr enlisted in the Army on June 21, 1939. He served in World War II during his enlistment. After the war, he tested atomic bombs in the Pacific Proving Grounds before returning to California, where he found work as an electrician. He married Clarnell Elizabeth Stage on November 26, 1942 in Great Falls, Montana. His wife constantly complained about his “menial” job as an electrician. Edmund Jr later stated that “suicide missions in wartime and the later atomic bomb testings were nothing compared to living with [Clarnell]” and that she affected him “as a grown man more than three hundred and ninety-six days and nights of fighting on the front did.” He said, “I became confused and was not certain of anything for quite a time.”
Edmund Jr and Clarnell had three children, Susan, Edmund III, and Allyn. Due to constant fighting, the couple separated in 1957 and Clarnell took the children back to Montana and continued to raise them there as a single parent. She found a job as a secretary at the First National Bank. Kemper, who had a close relationship with his father, was devastated by the separation. In 1962, when Kemper turned 14, he ran away from home to reunite with his father, who was living in Van Nuys, California at the time. Upon arriving at his father’s house. Kemper discovered that his father had remarried and now had a step-son. Edmund Jr allowed his son to stay until he planned for him to live in North Fork, California with his parents, Edmund Sr and Maude Kemper, whom Kemper would eventually murder in 1964.
Kemper was the second of three children of Edmund Jr, a six-foot-eight-inch electrician and his six-foot wife Clarnell. Both parents were heavily built and loud spoken. In good times, there were rowdiness and joking around the dinner table, and these were the moments that Kemper later cherished.
Susan, the oldest child, was six years of age when Kemper was born. The parents called him Guy. And when Guy was two and one-half years of age, and huge for a toddler-bright, curious, and into everything-his sister Allyn was born.
The wrangling and shouting between the two parents found a new focus in the way in which Kemper was being reared. When he was four, his father went away for two years, taking a job in an atomic bomb testing program in the Pacific. “The war never ceased,” Clarnell said bitterly. “Upon his [the father’s] return he tried college under the G.I. Bill, couldn’t get back into studying, argued like a staff sergeant with the instructors, dropped out, and worked rapidly into the electrical business.”
They argued over money and over the father’s lack of attention to the children. Clarnell Kemper claimed that her husband was “stern to the girls and overprotective to Ed,” saying, “He never spanked the children and they never had any respect for him. All he ever gave Kemper was his medals and war stories.”
When Kemper was nine years of age, his father again left home. By this time, it was charged that Clarnell had developed a drinking habit.
In 1958, when the father briefly returned to the family, he claimed he found that Clarnell was mistreating Kemper, having made him sleep in the basement for about eight months. “He was terrified of this place. There was only one way out. Someone had to move the kitchen table and lift the trapdoor. I put a stop to it and threatened her with the law.”
He also said that when Kemper was eight or nine years of age, the mother forced him to sell newspapers on the street, and that on one occasion the father went out looking for his son after the mother told the boy not to return until he had sold all his newspapers.
The way Kemper remembered those years, “Very early, my natural parents were always loud and arguing, which terrified me emotionally of anything very loud and very pushy. As I was growing up, I shied away from loud noises and arguments.”
“My mother was very strong and she wanted a man who was strong. My father was very big and very loud, but he was very weak and she wanted the opposite.”
Clarnell and Edmund Jr divorced on September 28, 1961 in Montana, on legal grounds of mental cruelty.
Two months later, Edmund Jr remarried, this time to Elfriede Weber, a German immigrant with a son two years older than Kemper. For the latter, this apparent usurpation of his father’s affections by an older and, no doubt in Kemper’s mind, worthier son must have come as the ultimate rejection.
Edmund Jr and Elfriede Weber remained married until his death in Los Angeles on January 19, 1985. He was buried at sea.
2. Norman Vincent Turnquist
On February 17, 1962, Clarnell married for the second time, with Norman Turnquist, in Helena, Montana. It was his third marriage. Born on March 18, 1917 in Horte, Missoula, Montana, Turnquist was in the US Marine Corps until he was wounded. He was discharged on August 8, 1945. After his military service, he worked for the city of Wallace in Montana. When he met Clarnell, he was working as a plumber. Kemper was 13 when they married.
Norman Turnquist, Kemper’s first stepfather, helped him for a time to overcome his death fantasies, taking him on fishing expeditions and teaching him to hunt. Yet even so, there was a day at Hauser Dam near their home when the boy picked up an iron bar and stood behind Turnquist for quite a long time. His plan, after bashing him over the head, was to steal his car and drive to Southern California for a reunion with his natural father. In these years, he thought continually of being allowed to live once more with his father, and made several attempts to do so. But he could not bring himself to lower the cudgel on his stepfather’s head. Usually, it was fear of reprisal by an older male that deterred him in such circumstances. All his life he would be a fearful giant who vastly preferred to strike weaker victims of the female gender.
When his father left and remarried, Kemper has fantasies of protecting his mother. But a year later, she had married Turnquist.
“I found out,” Kemper recalled, “that she didn’t need any protection at all. She used always to tell me how much I reminded her of my father, whom she dearly hated, of course.”
Clarnell and Turnquist divorced in Montana on June 20, 1963, just over a year after they married, on legal grounds of extreme cruelty.
Norman Turnquist died a few years later at the age of 48 of cardiac arrest, on August 18, 1965. At the time, his was working as a meat cutter for a meat packing company.
3. Harold Magnus Strandberg
Less than a year after her divorce from Turnquist, Clarnell wed Harold Magnus Strandberg on May 17, 1964. It was his first marriage, it was her third. They were both 43 years old. They were married in Wallace in Shoshone County in the State of Idaho. When he met Clarnell, Strandberg was working as a plumber.
Not much is known about Mr. Strandberg. He was born on December 8, 1921, in Helena Montana. He was drafted in the US Army some time in 1942 during the WWII conscription. He was working at the Helena Related Trade School at the time.
Clarnell and Strandberg married just a few months before Kemper murdered his paternal grandparents at their farm in August 1964 in North Fork, California. Kemper had been living with them since Christmas 1963. It is unclear if Kemper and Strandberg ever met or spoke. Kemper never mentioned Strandberg in any interview.
Clarnell and Strandberg divorced some time before 1969, the year he remarried, to Nona Laurence Buckland. Clarnell kept his surname as her own even after the divorce.
Strandberg died in an accident on August 8, 1986 in Montana. He was operating his small outboard motor boat on Holter Lake when a high wind capsized his boat. He did not have a life vest on. He suffered from hypothermia and drowned.
Source: The Co-ed Killer by Margaret Cheney, 1976 / Ancestry
This photo and famous Kemper quote are from the upcoming book Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, which will be released in May 2021. It covers the crimes of the three active serial killers in the Santa Cruz region in California in the early 1960s, that of Edmund Kemper, Herbert Mullin and John Linley Frazier. The stories are all told through direct quotes from the murderers themselves, people from their families and those who were involved in their respective cases.
I had the chance to read an advanced copy and this book is simply terrific. Many new information and details about the Kemper case. Direct quotes from his mother, his father and his older sister are quite revealing. Many new pictures of Kemper during the trial and a never-seen-before mugshot of young Kemper. Kemper researchers will be thrilled by this book as it enriches his story quite a lot. We will do an official review when the book comes out this Spring.