Dr. Murph: Malpracticing horror & humor for years
The stage is black, an inky hole of darkness. Suddenly the opening strains of Al Caiola’s “Experiment in Terror” come blasting out of the speakers, music that every horror fan of a certain age in the greater Pittsburgh viewing area knows by heart. Eerie green lights come on with a mist of fog machine smoke. A black shape steps out of the mists, swaying with the music, hands reaching claw-like for the ceiling, pumping gleefully. A harsh white spot snaps on, revealing a figure in blood-splattered lab coat and medical scrubs, a surgical mask covers most of his face. With a flourish he snatches away the surgical mask to reveal a nightmare face, dead blue-white skin, bloody gouges across one cheek (courtesy of an infected lab monkey), an “X” carved into his brow. There are fangs in the grinning mouth and the eyes are demonic red.
“Hello, Boys and Girls! The Doctor is IN! Welcome toChiller Theater!”
Eyebrows waggle mischievously and the bad jokes begin.
Dr. Murph, aka Sean Anthony Murphy, is a 17-year Halloween tradition in Morgantown.
“I’ve never missed a Halloween,” the Doctor proclaims proudly. “I’ve done a show on or near Halloween every year since I first started doing shows in 2001.”
That first show was a night to remember. Dr. Murph opened for several bands, including The Tom Batchelor Band and Hogblast, among others. The Doctor, who did not have fangs yet, did a comedy routine mixing leering, snarling delivery with indescribably lame jokes.
“Bad jokes, puns, and corny humor are all part of the Horror Host tradition.” Murph explains. “But what saved that show wasthe puppets!”
The puppet show featured “The Adventures of Young Dr. Kevorkian.” It left the audience shocked, horrified, with open mouths and nervous giggles. It was deeply offensive, in the worst of taste, and funny as hell. After a lengthy stunned silence, the crowd went wild.
“I love doing the puppet shows,” Dr. Murph says with an evil snicker.
Since that night Dr. Murph has been joined regularly by a hilariously horrific hand puppet “Mini-Murph” with the exact same demonic face and blood-splattered medical garb. “Mini-Murph is an old toy from 1975, ‘Hugo, the Man of a Thousand Faces.’ Beth painted the face to match Dr. Murph.” (Beth being Beth Toren, a local crafts enthusiast and the videographer for most of Dr. Murph’s career.) “The lab coat and scrub shirt came from a Teddy Bear Christmas display at the Morgantown Mall..”
He’s been a part of the show ever since. Also a part of the show is Dr. Murph’s crash-cart of horrors, a wheeled metal cart festooned with a cruel assortment of antique medical instruments, along with numerous rubber body parts, plastic skulls, and dripping gore.
“My father was the head librarian at WVU’s medical library for many years. He collected antique turn-of-the-century and Civil War era medical instruments. Now I have that whole collection.”
That collection is filled with horrifying tonged things, serrated blades, bone saws, rusty scalpels, vicious probes, and bleeding bowls. It’s enough to cause nightmares in itself.
“My props are dangerous!” Dr. Murph observes with glee.
Dr. Murph’s masterpiece was his demonstration of pumpkin carving at one Halloween show at 123 Pleasant Street. A very large Jack O’Lantern was wheeled out for the display. Dr. Murph came out witha chainsaw. The pumpkin was stuffed with gory goodies. When the Doctor applied the chainsaw blood sprayed out in all directions. Soon he was pulling a gelatin brain out and scooping up double handfuls of gore all while chatting amiably with the audience.
Several bar-goers left the room quickly, hands over their mouths.
The Dr. Murph show is not for everyone! He mixes corny humor with genuinely shocking content with no thought of “good taste” or common decency. It’s a Splatterpunk test of nerves that gets too intense for some people. It is intended to offend just about everyone.
Dr. Murph says, “Horror Hosts used to be family friendly and non-threatening, but that won’t cut it anymore. A college-aged bar crowd expects to be challenged. They want to be shocked. They expect someone as ugly, offensive, and hysterical as these times. They want something that they can’t wait to breathlessly share with their co-workers the next day.”
The Doctor has just the prescription they need.
The nights are growing cooler, the leaves are turning. Shadows crawl down from the hills in inky black swarms.
Halloween is near!
The Doctor will see you now