Morgus the Magnificent debuted in New Orleans on January 3, 1959, as the host of WWL-TV’s “House of Shock,” which aired late-night science fiction and horror movies. Throughout the films, Morgus would conduct science experiments in his lab with the aid of his executioner sidekick Chopsley always to undesired and comedic effect. He had wild eyes, crooked teeth, a filthy labcoat and wildly unkempt hair, and he took New Orleans by storm.
During his first year on-air, Morgus was in high demand everywhere, making appearances at schools, theaters, stores and private functions. Ads for Morgus costumes were plentiful at Halloween and Mardi Gras. Morgus T-shirts were a big hit at Godchaux’s, and Maison Blanche sold a Morgus hand puppet for $1.98, featuring “rooted hair that can be washed and combed into many imaginative styles.” He also produced an album of his TV theme music and spooky sounds entitled Morgus the Magnificent.
Halloween 1962 saw the premiere of the Morgus movie: The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus, in which Morgus creates an “instant-people” machine that reduces humans to sand and then back again. Filmed in New Orleans, Chris Owens is featured doing the cha-cha. That same year, Morgus went off the air after a disagreement about personal appearances.
After a brief stint on-air in Detroit, Morgus returned to WWL-TV for another run, from 1965-’67. He was back on the air again from ’70-’71, this time on WDSU-TV. But it was short-lived, and Morgus quit to pursue private interests.
But the legend of Morgus would not fade. Morgus returned to WGNO-TV in 1987-’89 and had a brief syndication deal that placed him in a handful of cities for a few years (and also on Taco Bell trick-or-treat bags in ’89). Through the ’90s until present day, Morgus has continued to be variously on and off the air, but has never dropped far from the minds of many New Orleanians. Documentaries have been made, songs have been written and Morgus T-shirts are still great sellers.