Friday, October 18, 2019
By Lissa Capo

The Instant People Machine, the Speed of Dark, the Perpetual Life Machine, and the Internet are just a few of Dr. Momus Alexander Morgus's creations and discoveries. Working for the mysterious Higher Order to help improve mankind, Morgus designed his experiments to enlighten the masses, sharing his work through his weekly television broadcasts. Dr. Morgus founded the Momus Alexander Morgus Institute (M.A.M.I.), a nonprofit organization to fund his scientific research.

Morgus, a prototypical mad-scientist character based on the foibles of Don Quixote, was brought to life by Sid Noel Rideau. Chopsley, portrayed by the late Tommy George, was the silent Sancho Panza to Morgus’s Quixote, oftentimes playing the part of the test subject. He always wore a hood over his head, thanks to an early Morgusian “face transplant,” which had the unexpected side effect of making Chopsley’s face cave in.

Morgus is shown in the French Quarter on Mardi Gras Day in 1959. (THNOC, The Franck-Bertacci Collection, 1994.94.2.1891)

Morgus the Magnificent got his start hosting horror movies on WWL-TV in 1959. His “House of Shock” program showcased scary movies in between his often scary (results-wise) experiments. Morgus and Chopsley were also joined by E.R.I.C. (Eon Research Infinity Computer). E.R.I.C. started as a talking skull; later it became a talking skull attached to an Apple computer, which purportedly held all of the knowledge of the universe in its memory banks.

In 1962 Morgus moved to the big screen with The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus, wherein Morgus invented the Instant People Machine, designed to turn people into sand and then restore them to life. The movie, also starring Dan Barton, Jeanne Teslof, and Tommy George, with a cameo by a young Chris Owens, remains a cult classic to this day. Shortly thereafter, Morgus moved to the Detroit television market, appearing on the local CBS affiliate where he gave comic weather reports.

A promotional poster for The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus calls the film "the most hilarious off beat picture in years." (THNOC, Don Lee Keith New Orleans in Film Collection, gift of Teresa Neaves, 2011.0300.79)

Morgus had a revival in the late 1980s, hosting “Morgus Presents” in his New Orleans laboratory. Keeping the science fiction movie wrap-around format, Morgus modeled his experiments on the movie he showed each week. The series produced a total of 52 episodes, which have been in syndication intermittently over the years.

According to Morgus, these days his alter-ego Sid Noel—as he goes, professionally—has taken over his lab. “Morgus has morphed into me—years ago, I morphed into Morgus,” said Noel. In October 2019, he performed a monologue show at the Orpheum Theater at an event called “An Evening with Sid Noel: Recollections of a Mad Scientist,” which benefitted the Alzheimer’s Association of Louisiana.

As reported on, Sid Noel passed away in Covington, Louisiana, on August 27, 2020. 

This article has been published posthumously. A version of this story originally appeared in the Historically Speaking column of the New Orleans Advocate.