Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Yippee Ki Yay Mother Podcast #12: mother!

On this episode of the Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast, an inter-generational look at the movies, special guest Mark Casale shares his passion for the controversial 2017 Darren Aronofsky film mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence. Will he make a believer out of you in this fiery episode?  There's only on way to find out....

Special Guest Mark Casale
Here's the trailer of the film:

Here's the video of the podcast.  (Notice the new camera set-up):

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

My Ancestors: The Mystery of Frank John Murphy

By all reports, my great-grandfather Frank John Murphy was a great man.  He served as the fire chief of Dunmore, Pennsylvania, a community outside Scranton, Pennsylvania. It is said he was much-beloved by the community and his family.

He remains, however, a mystery to me.

I have been actively working on my family tree since the death of Gino Protani, an uncle I never met (long story), in 1998. I have subsequently traced most of my familial lines back for centuries, but Frank's lineage has remained elusive despite the fact that I have more information about him than any of my great-grandparents.

I was raised to believe Frank was born on the boat coming over from Ireland. I was about ten-years-old when either my grandmother or grandfather told me this story. According to that legend, Frank's mother, who was traveling alone, died during childbirth. A relative waiting at the dock for the young Irish lass took the orphaned Frank to be raised by relatives in Scranton. It is a great, classic American immigrant tale. I know my great-aunt Eileen Murphy LeStrange, Frank's daughter, believed the tale. But it wasn't true. She was astonished when I read her this biography I found in the book "The History of Lackawanna County" compiled by Thomas Murphy and published in February, 1928:

     Frank John Murphy, who holds the responsible position of chief of the Dunmore Fire Department, is a widely known and highly esteemed citizen of Lackawanna County. He was born in New York City, July 6, 1883, the son of John Murphy and Mary (Healey) Murphy. 
     John Murphy, deceased, was a native of Chicago, Ill. He worked in the steel mills for many years and later was employed in the coal mines of Dunmore, where he had settled at an early date. His wife is also deceased, and they are buried in St. Mary's Cemetery, Dunmore. 
     Frank John Murphy spent his boyhood in Dunmore and attended the public schools. He went to work in the Johnson breakers as a slate picker and later learned the electrician's trade. He became chief electrician at these breakers and remained in that line of work until 1915 at which time he became chief of the Dunmore Fire Department. About 1899 Mr. Murphy joined the O.S. Johnson Fire Company, a volunteer organization, in which he has since been interested. The local department has been completely motorized and it was through Mr. Murphy's efforts that the double platoon system was organized. He organized the Dunmore Firemen's Department organization, of which he is serving as treasurer. He is also identified with the Pennsylvania State National Firemen's, National Fire Chiefs, and the Keystone Fire Chiefs' Associations. 
     On Aug. 10, 1915, Mr. Murphy married Miss Loretta McLane, the daughter of James and Mary (Jordan) McLane, the former a native of Ireland and the latter of England. Mr. McLane, deceased, was a pioneer resident of Dunmore, where his widow resides. Mr. and Mrs. McLane were the parents of the following children: William, Agnes, Theresa, Catherine, and James, all deceased; Ellen, the widow of James O'Hara, lives in Dunmore; Michael, married J. Gilligan, lives in Dunmore; Maria, lives in Scranton; Belinda, the widow of John Morrison, lives in Rochester, N.Y.; Anna F., lives in Scranton; Elizabeth, married Patrick McLoughlin, lives in Scranton; Loretta Murphy; and Ambrose, an adopted son, lives in Rochester, N.Y. To Mr. and Mrs. Murphy have been born four children: Francis, born in December, 1916; Paul, born in 1918; James deceased; and Mary Eileen, born in 1924. 
    Mr. Murphy has always been a Democrat. He is a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church and belongs to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. 

Eileen was shocked by the story. Although Frank himself was obviously the source of the story, she knew it wasn't true. She never met her grandparents and she was certain that if they were buried in St. Mary's Cemetery she would have known about it. The secrets of Frank's origins also eluded his other children who survived to adulthood.  I know my grandfather Paul James Murphy tried to figure it out prior to his death. So did his brother Francis John Murphy.

So what do I know?

According to his death certificate, Frank Murphy was born on November 15, 1883 in New York City, and that his parents were John Murphy and Mary Toole. The information on the death certificate was supplied by my great-uncle Francis,  Frank's oldest son. However, Francis wasn't a necessarily reliable source. Frank himself, in his Social Security application, said he was born in New York on July 6, 1883, and listed his parents as John Murphy and Mary Touhill.  Hmmm. Case closed, right?  Not so fast. Remember, in the biography above, Frank reported that his mother's name was Mary Healy. Additionally, on his marriage license to Loretta G. McLane, Frank reported that his parents were John Murphy and Mary Shoel, and that they were alive and living in Dunmore. 

Frank and Loretta
Come on, Frank. Get your story straight! Every time you mention your mother you give her a different last name!

So what is consistent? The name of his father: John Murphy, but sometimes Frank says his father was born in Ireland and sometimes he says he was born in Illinois. He is also consistent with the first name of his mother: Mary.  (A pretty safe bet for an Irish girl!) He was also consistent about being born in New York City. Except sometimes Frank is from Chicago. Let's look at the census records.

Frank Murphy can be found in the 1900 Federal Census of Pennsylvania, S.D. 7, E.D. 25, Sheet 9B, Line 62A, living with a Mary Carey, 50, at 171 Grove Street. His birthplace was listed as Illinois!

Mary Carey was a widow with one child who was still alive. She had no listed occupation, but she owned her home free and clear. She had come to America from Ireland in 1875. They lived next door to a large family of Careys, headed by John Carey, 37.  Mary Carey lived until at least 1935. According to his daughter Eileen, Frank wanted Mary to move into the McLane house to help look after his children following the unexpected death of his wife Loretta. However, Loretta's maiden sisters wouldn't hear of it. Additionally, other Carey relatives feared Mary was too old for the job. 

I know what you're thinking.  Perhaps Mary was actually Frank's mother.  That's a tempting thought in theory, but not practice.  My grandfather and his siblings knew Mary very well, and they never suspected she was their grandmother. However, they knew she was a distant relative.

Frank Murphy can also be found in the 1910 Federal Census of Pennsylvania, S.D. 5, E.D. 31, Sheet 10B, living as a boarder at 411 West Grove Street with the family of James Moore. He was listed as being 26, which would mean he was born in 1884. He worked with locomotives in a mine, but he had been unemployed for five months during the previous year.  Once again he was listed as being born in Illinois.

Young Frank Murphy
The head of the household, James Moore, 35, was born in England and worked as a coal miner. His wife Catherine, 33, was born in Ireland. They were married for 14 years and had six children. This family remained close to Frank and his children. James served as Eileen's godfather, and also as a pall bearer at both Frank and Loretta's funerals. He always warmly welcomed Eileen and her children into his home. 

The 1920 Federal Census of Pennsylvania, S.D. 9, E.D. 47, Sheet 2B, Line 84, finds Frank, 36, living with his wife, Loretta, 35, and their children, Francis, 3, and Paul, 11/12, at the McLane family homestead at 802 Irving Avenue. The census form is smudged, but seems to report that he was born in Illinois. He is listed as the borough Fire Chief.

The 1930 Federal Census of Pennsylvania, Lackawanna County, Dunmore, finds Frank J., 47, living with his wife Loretta G., 47, and his son Francis J., 13, Paul, 11, and daughter Mary (Eileen), 6, still living at 802 Irving Avenue. The home was valued at $8,000. In this census, Frank finally gives his place of birth as New York, and reports that both of his parents were born in the Irish Free State. His occupation: Fire Chief, Fire Department. 

So what was it Frank?  New York or Illinois?  (A paid search of the birth records of both Illinois and New York failed to find Frank.)

Another clue linking Frank to Illinois concerns the Balcom family.  Apparently, when Frank was a child he spent the summers in Chicago with the Balcom family. I had photographic evidence of that fact. I remember seeing a photograph of a motorcycle cop with the name Balcom written on the back (sadly lost), and this photograph below labelled "Balcom children."

Prior to his death, my grandfather Paul Murphy made contact with the Balcom family in Chicago. He asked them about Frank Murphy. They knew who Frank Murphy was, they refused to answer any questions about him. That's where my grandfather's search ended.

I thought I finally had the solution to the mystery when my cousin Tom Vought found this clue on page 7 of the Scranton Republican on Monday, June 23, 1924:

Walter Balcom, of Chicago, Ill., has returned to his home after visiting his uncle, Fire Chief F. J. Murphy, of Irving Avenue.

At last an actual link to the Balcoms of Chicago!  Frank is listed as Walter's uncle. I researched that branch of the Balcom family.  Walter was the son of George Balcom, a police officer (like in the lost picture), and Catherine Murphy! The newspaper story would seem to indicate that Frank was the brother of Catherine Murphy Balcom, who was the daughter of Martin J. Murphy and Margaret McCann.  Sadly, however, Frank doesn't seem to fit into the line of Martin and Margaret's children. They raised a large family of children, whom they kept in their home. Why would they ship Frank to relatives in Scranton? Additionally, Frank is too old to be an illegitimate son of either Catherine or one of her sisters.  That said, a William McCann acted as a pallbearer for Frank's wife Loretta....

Oh well.  The search continues, but the answer is obvious to me. Frank was almost certainly illegitimate and he went to great lengths to avoid the stigma associated with that status in those days. It is sad that, despite his status and esteem in the community, he felt the need to obliterate his past.

Hopefully, he left a clue for me somewhere.....

Frank Murphy, later years

Obituary from The Scranton Times on January 23, 1939 (picture included): 

6-Weeks Illness Is Fatal To Veteran In Public Service 

     Frank J. Murphy, 55, who had been chief of Dunmore's fire department for the past quarter century, died at 8 o'clock yesterday morning at his home, 1119 North Irving Avenue, after a six weeks' illness of heart disease.
     Chief Murphy, a Dunmore native, was elected first as chief of the department, which he later disciplined and improved, in February, 1914, and had held the position continuously until his death.
     Before becoming fire chief, he was head electrician for the Johnson Coal Company of Dunmore and had the distinction of operating the first electric motor used in a mine in this region. 


     When he became chief, the department consisted of one truck, three teams and two hand drawn pieces of equipment. Today the department has four motor trucks. He was also credited with establishing the platoon system, and with keeping the electrical fire alarm system working with perfection through his electrical knowledge.
     He was affiliated with nearly all firemen's organization in this region and in 1915 was the organizer of a camp for underprivileged Dundell section youngsters at Moosic Lake. 
     He was president of the Firemen's Relief Association of Dunmore, and officer of the Lackawanna County Federation of Volunteer Firemen, a member of the law committee of the Six-County Firemen's Association, the Keystone Fire Chief's Association of Pennsylvania and the State Firemen's Association of Pennsylvania.
     In 1921 and 1928 he was instrumental in bringing the Six-County Firemen's convention to Dunmore. 


     He was organizer of the O.F. Johnson Hose Company, later the T.F. Quinn Hose Company; he also organized the Father McManus T.A.B. Society, and was manager of the baseball team representing the Dundell Section of Dunmore.
     Mr. Murphy was a member of St. Mary's Church and its Holy Name Society. In 1915, he married the former Loretta McLane, who died four years ago January 29.
     Surviving are two sons, Francis and Paul, and a daughter, Eileen, Dunmore.
     The funeral will be held on Wednesday morning with a solemn high mass of requiem in St. Mary's Church. Interment, St. Catherine's Cemetery, Moscow. Arrangements by McDonnell & Kane, Dunmore. 

Article from The Scranton Times, January 25, 1939: 

Solemn High Mass Of Requiem Celebrated In
St. Mary's Church For Former Fire Chief. 

    Frank J. Murphy, chief of the Dunmore fire department for the past quarter of a century, was buried this morning in St. Catherine's cemetery, Moscow, and a fitting tribute was paid to his memory by the large number of persons attending his funeral, conducted from the family home, 1119 Irving avenue, that borough.
     The esteem in which Chief Murphy, who was affiliated with local and state firemen's associations, was held was shown by the large number of out-of-town persons who were present at both the home and the church. A solemn high mass of requiem was celebrated at 10 o'clock in St. Mary's Church, Dunmore, by Rev. James Gilloegly, pastor. Rev. Joseph Kelley was deacon and Rev. Leo V. Murphy was subdeacon. Rev. Charles Carroll, of Taylor; Rev. Charles Gallagher, of Lackawaxen, and Rev. George Jeffery, of Ashley, were seated in the sanctuary. Mrs. Thomas Duffy was the organist and Mrs. Margaret Haggerty sang "Rose of the Cross" and "Panis Angelicus." William Taylor sang "Sweet Savior Bless Us Ere We Go."
     Members of the Dunmore fire department, the Dunmore police department and all borough officials acted as honorary pallbearers. Active pallbearers were: John Gilroy, William Grady, James Moore, Martin Barnack, John Hunt and Thomas Harrison. 
     Rev. Leo Sullivan officiated at the committal services in St. Catherine's cemetery.

Click here for more of my genealogical blogs:

Unlike my great-grandfather Frank, I have nothing to hide.  Read all about me in my memoir "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking to God" published by TouchPoint Press.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Yippee Ki Yay Mother Podcast #11: Slap Shot

On this episode of the Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast, an inter-generational look at the movies, I brought in the 1977 George Roy Hill hockey film Slap Shot, starring Paul Newman. I recently featured the film in my blog Seven Guy Films about seven films that guys like but women tend not to enjoy.To test the point, we brought back our favorite special guest, writer and comedienne Michele Wojciechowski (Wojo) to bring the female perspective. You'll have to listen to find out if we can convince her that the film is a true classic, or at least a cult classic.

Here's the trailer of the film:

Here's the video of the podcast.  (Notice the new camera set-up):


Sunday, March 11, 2018

TV Free Baltimore: 21 Eyes Interview

The folks at TV Free Baltimore recently interviewed me about the making of my first film 21 Eyes.  The film was about two detectives, played by Academy-Award winner Fisher Stevens and Michael Buscemi, logging the twenty-one security camera tapes concerning the seemingly-botched robbery of a jewelry dealer. The two detectives, who are never seen on camera, soon begin to suspect that the robbery wasn't as open-and-shut as it appeared.

Here's the trailer of the film:

Here is the interview:

If you want to read my account of the making of the film, co-written and directed by Lee Bonner and produced by David Butler, click on the links below:

21 Eyes, A History, Part 1
21 Eyes, A History, Part 2
21 Eyes, A History, Part 3
21 Eyes, A History, Part 4
21 Eyes, About That Nude Scene....

By the way, have you read my memoir yet? It was published by Touchpoint Press and is readily available by all good book vendors.

Monday, March 5, 2018

CHAPEL STREET is coming....

Chapel Street follows Rick Bakos, a thirty-something loner emotionally scarred by a series of suicides in his family, into a maelstrom of horror. After taking a picture of the wrong grave as a volunteer for a genealogical website, Rick slowly discovers his family wasn’t plagued by mental illness but rather a multi-generational demonic curse. Will he survive the psychological and spiritual onslaught, or follow his mother and older brother into an early grave by his own hand?

The novel is loosely inspired by real events. I lived with my family for a number of years in a very haunted house and experienced the suicides of two siblings. Years later, my mother asked me if I thought the demonic entity in the house might have responsible for their deaths. My answer was yes. I explored that possibility in this book, which draw very loosely upon real people and places and events and even the suicide note of my brother.

Here's what some folks are saying about the book:

“Horror story, metaphysical mystery, romance – Chapel Street is a spine-tingling supernatural thriller mixing family history, religion, dark secrets and a demonic presence into a fantastical yarn. Sean Paul Murphy is a powerful storyteller with a compelling imagination. Warning! Don’t read this battle between good and evil late at night. It’s unputdownable.”

“Evil has many faces in this shocking psychological suspense thriller. With the members of his family stalking him, Rick faces a dark spiritual battle that forces him out of his comfort zone and into a world where only the weapon of faith can give him a chance of survival. With a serving of dry humor, a cast of strong characters, and a sequence of uncanny moments, Chapel Street will draw you into an eerie and soul-awakening journey.”
Krista Wagner

"A great read."
Kenny "Kenji" Gallo
Author,  Breakshot: A Life in the 21st Century American Mafia

“Fun and frightening. Balancing on a wire's edge between sane and insane, dead and undead, Chapel Street draws you into a world where demonic doings are passed down from generation to generation. Invested in the struggle, I desperately wanted the main characters to prevail. My only course of action was to continue reading until the last word.”
Executive Producer, Discovery Communications

Chapel Street is a wonderfully written and frightening book. I see this easily transformed into a haunting movie or streaming series.”
John Molli

“I finished Chapel Street in three sittings. I looked forward to picking it up every time because there was constant suspense and movement. The great thing about this horror story is that it perfectly melds creepy with a nod to faith. That’s often difficult to implement – creating a horror novel with elements of faith without it being cheesy or too over the top.”
Jamie Hope
Author/Contributor,  American Thinker

Here's what people are saying about my other work:

“The most endearing quality of the book (The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God) is the author’s voice. Murphy’s attention to detail and humorous delivery are exceptional.”
Karen Wiser

“Just as I do with his films, I laughed, I cried,
I reconsidered my opinions on a few things.”
Cindy Navarro

“He could have been writing about his pet gerbil and
I would have enjoyed it because I love his writing style.”
Sharon Wilharm

“It’s the writing that sets The Encounter apart from lesser Christian movie fare. Sean Paul Murphy and Timothy Ratajczak (Sarah's Choice, featuring Rebecca St. James) have devised a thoughtful script that smartly plays both sides of arguments with timely insight, biblical wisdom, and sprinklings of humor.”
Russ Breimeir
Christianity Today

“(The Encounter) is arguably the best Christian film I’ve ever seen.”
Ben Umnus
The Christian Perspective

“I found Sarah's Choice thoughtful, engaging, and highly enjoyable—in much the same way that Bottle Shock might be enjoyed by those with no interest in wine, or Bowling for Columbine can nonetheless be appreciated by gun owners.”
Greg Wright
Past the Popcorn

“Christian films are often criticized -- and rightly so -- for oversimplifying complex issues. However, Hidden Secrets is a refreshing exception, dealing with difficult subjects such as homosexuality and abortion with candor, realism and heart.”
Linda Michaels

"Hidden Secrets is a story of love, friendship, redemption and ultimately faith
that is humorous, touching and always entertaining.”
Edwin L. Carpenter
The Dove Foundation

Brother White delivers a powerful message without becoming heavy-handed.”
Kimberly Roberts
The Philadelphia Tribune

"21 Eyes is a unique, entertaining and visionary flick featuring
strong dialogue and solid performances.”
Richard Propes

“(21 Eyes) delivers enough suspense, humor and clever twists to
keep fans of mysteries and crime drama reeled in to the very end.”
Vince Leo

“(Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End) is also pretty entertaining, falling somewhere between a mystery, an action movie, a supernatural tale, and a Bible-thumping thriller.”
Gordon Shelly
Influx Magazine

“(The Coming Storm) is the best training film ever made.”
James Comey
Former Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

My in-house editorial process is nearly completed. I want to thank everyone who helped me bring the book this far. I especially want to thank my beta readers Patty Gehret, Beth White Werrell and, of course, my lovely wife Deborah, who saw the book at its rawest. I also want to thank my trusty editor Trish Schweers, who always manages to hammer my work into shape. I would also like to thank my fellow authors and media professionals who took time out of their busy schedules to read the book and offer their advice and kind words.

After much debate and consultation with other writers, I have decided to try to find a traditional publisher for the book rather than self-publish. I am looking forward to that journey, and I hope the book will be available for all soon. But, until then, I expect to post some sample chapters soon.

Of course, while you're waiting for Chapel Street, feel free to read my memoir:


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Yippee Ki Yay Mother Podcast #10: Natural Born Killers

In this episode of the Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast, an inter-generational look at the movies, Al brings in Oliver Stone's 1994 film Natural Born Killers, featuring a script by pre-glory Quentin Tarantino. I remember ranking this film as the third worst one of 1994, after the deathly unfunny Cops and Robbersons and anti-erotic Exit To Eden. Needless to say, we have a heated and entertaining discussion. Check it out.

Here's the trailer of the film:

And here is our Podcast on Youtube:

Or you can listen to it on our webpage:  Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast

Our Podcast is now available for download on iTunes: Yippee Ki Yay Mother Podcast
Like us on Facebook:  Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast.

Friday, February 23, 2018

My 5 Least Favorite Beatles Songs

In my last blog, I listed my 20 favorite Beatles songs.  Obviously, not all of their songs reached that same high level. Where there are mountains, there are also valleys. While I enjoy almost their entire catalog, there are a few songs I can live without.

I have only considered songs in the official Beatles canon for this list. I did not consider anything from the Star Club, or the Decca Auditions, or the BBC or the Anthology series. I only chose from the songs they themselves deemed worthy of official release when they were still an operational band.

Here they are (in no particular order):

A TASTE OF HONEY, 1963, Please Please Me.  The Beatles, particularly Paul McCartney, certainly had a taste for pre-rock pop, music hall and Broadway show tunes. This song, written by Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow, originally served as the instrumental theme of a Broadway play of the same name. Billy Dee Williams recorded the first vocal version (works every time). Don't get me wrong, the Beatles can certainly make numbers like this one work. I really enjoy their version of Till There Was You, from the show The Music Man on their second album. They made that song their own, mainly because George Harrison supplied a nifty guitar solo. This song, however, doesn't float my boat. It sounds old and out-of-date to me. Always did.

MR. MOONLIGHT, 1964,  Beatles For Sale.  This obscure R&B song, written by Roy Lee Johnson and originally performed by Dr. Feelgood and the Interns, is often cited as a least favorite Beatles track on many such lists. According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, the song was a quite a show stopper during their clubs days. The place would grow quiet as John Lennon belted out the acappela opening, and there was considerable tension as to whether he would be in the right key when the band starting playing. Oh well. Whatever drama their live performances of this song generated did not translate to the recording. The backing vocals sound flat and bored and the cheesy organ ruins the instrumentation.

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, 1965, Rubber Soul.  Don't get me wrong. This isn't a terrible song. I've been known to play it myself. (The attitude of this song certainly fit my band The Atomic Enema, which was formed by three out of four guys who had just left significant relationships. Here's what kind of songs we played: When You're Dead.) That said, the misogynistic lyrics of this song seem totally out of place on the album Rubber Soul. It would have felt more at home on earlier Please Please Me or With The Beatles albums. The song also gets an additional demerit for cribbing a line from the Elvis Presley song Baby, Let's Play House.

GOOD NIGHT, 1968, The Beatles.  I know what you're thinking: The obvious choice from The White Album would be Revolution 9. However, the older I get the more I appreciate that experimental sound collage. Additionally, this song, written by John Lennon but sung by Ringo Starr, does indeed work in the context of a closer to the sprawling, somewhat chaotic, double album. That said, I have little patience for the song outside of the album. It is too maudlin for my taste. Lennon apparently requested a "cheesy" orchestration from producer George Martin, who faithfully followed his instructions.  I do not necessarily skip this track when I listen to The White Album, but I have never hit that little button on my phone and said, "Siri, play Good Night by The Beatles."

WHEN I GET HOME, 1964, A Hard Day's Night.  I once made a set of CDs that played through the Beatles' catalog with all of the singles in proper context. I used to love playing them on long road trips.  But I noticed something over time. I always hit skip after this song started and that is a rarity for me and The Beatles.  In his last major interview, John Lennon was dismissive of many of his songs as either filler or work songs. That's the category where this one belongs. Aside from the drumming, the overall performance is lackluster. Lennon tries to inject some excitement into the vocals, but the song merely plays on some of their familiar musical tropes. There is a certain been there done that feeling. If you really want to hear a real song about a guy who is anxious to get to his girl, check out the title song of the album.

Read about my favorite Beatles songs here:  My 20 Favorite Beatles Songs.

Check out some videos I edited here:
FD Automatic: Red Shoes
Crack The Sky: Mr. President
Greg Kihn: Horror Show
Nils Lofgren: Alone

Be sure to check out my memoir: