Rimini Riddle: “Like someone figured out how to film a nightmare…”

What are you doing? Well stop it and sit down because we are going to talk about Rimini Riddle. If you don’t know what this is then I apologise in advance for the dark secrets I am about to impart, if you DO know what I’m talking about I see you there trying to tab out and you can knock that off right now BECAUSE WE ARE DOING THIS. YES. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT RIMINI RIDDLE. YOU KNEW THIS WAS COMING. YOU’VE ALWAYS KNOWN. YES, YOU HAVE.

So.

This is what we know.

Between 1992 and 1994 (or ’95?) RTÉ 1 (or maybe Network 2?) aired a children’s television programme called The Rimini Riddle. It was one of those shows that nobody seemed particularly crazy about, but everyone had seen at one time or another. In Ireland in the nineties most of us only had two channels so it’s not like we were spoiled for choice. It ran for around ninety episodes (ish) across three seasons and then it ended.

Twenty five years passed.

Then, almost in unison, an entire generation of Irish thirty somethings woke up in bed and yelled “Wait a minute. WHAT WAS THAT SHOW ABOUT?!”

Rimini Riddle was terrifying. Perhaps the most frightening programme ever ostensibly made for children in the English speaking world. It was like someone found a way to film a nightmare. This show traumatised my little brother. I’m not even being hyperbolic. Full on night terrors. So, when I suddenly remembered that this show existed, I did what any arrested man child of the internet age would do, I went online to find out more about it. And that’s when things got eerie.

Pick any given children’s show from the nineties and you will almost certainly find a detailed wikipedia page (if not it’s own dedicated wiki), an entry on IMdB, hours of clips on YouTube, fansites,  fanart and an exhaustively populated TvTropes page. Doesn’t matter how obscure the show is, somebody will have done the legwork. Rimini Riddle has none of that. There is one clip on YouTube.

There is a mention of it on another YouTube video which calls it the scariest puppet show of all time (true, but needlessly qualified), a few production stills and an entry on something called The Lost Media wiki, a wiki solely dedicated to media that has been irrevocably lost. And a Facebook page of people essentially saying the same thing: “Oh my God this was real I thought I dreamed it this was the most terrifying thing ever”. Other than that, this show is a ghost.

Other shows have fans, The Rimini Riddle has survivors. It’s like we all experienced the same dream and are now trying to piece it back together. Because for all the impact that it made on us, this show is really, really hard to remember. Almost suspiciously so.

Here’s what I can recall.

1)      It was a puppet show.

2)      Our main characters were three siblings Rory, his sister (I’ll get to her in a second) and his little brother Leo.

3)      Right, the sister. No one seems to remember her name. Some people say “Ellen” but I could swear it was “Ashling”.

4)      Rory was a moody teenager whose favourite band was a heavy metal group called the Fat Catastrophes. Weird detail to remember but there you go. Ellen/Ashling was the sensible one and was always trying to keep the peace between Rory and Leo, who was just an innocent little kid.

5)      Also, I think Rory was able to talk to the Fat Catastrophes on his computer so maybe this show invented Skype?

6)      The kids parents died and they were sent to live with their Aunt Vera, a greedy and selfish old woman who looked like Beaker crossed with Margaret Thatcher.

Or Ronald McDonald got fused with Mick Jagger. I go back and forth.

7)      All the puppets, all the puppets, were straight out of the uncanny valley.

8)      They lived in Vera’s boarding house, which was called (I think) The Rimini House, hence the title of the show.

9)      The actual quality of the show is something that no one can agree on. Some people remember it as being “so bad its good” terrible, some remember it as being genuinely excellent. I honestly can’t remember. I know I didn’t like it, but I think that was more from the creepiness than any issues of quality.

10)   It was surprisingly complex. It’s been described as a “Puppet Soap Opera” with ongoing plots and narrative arcs. There was even (apparently) a storyline where Vera falls in love with a conman who plans to steal her money and bump the kids off, although I don’t remember that at all because we need to talk about the Otto storyline. Like. Right now.

Right. Otto. So. This is Otto.

Otto was Leo’s toy Otter. Leo loved Otto. Then Leo started getting into trouble for doing things like wrecking Rory’s room or stealing money from Aunt Vera. And Leo would be all “It wasn’t me, it was Otto.”

So, what? The family realise that Leo’s acting out and sit down with him and talk it out and he realises that lying is wrong?

Nope. It really was Otto. Toy’s fucking possessed.

Okay, so we’re already deep in the creep. But it gets worse. Otto starts talking to Leo and showing how he can levitate knives with his mind and that he wants him to come with him back to his home, which he says is a wonderful place full of fun things for boys and girls to do.

Because you see, Otto is actually a servant of these…beings, called Mommos who use talking toys to lure children to their realm where they fucking eat them and this was broadcast on Saturday mornings. For children.

I can’t find a picture of the Mommos but I remember them looking like giant green bananas with long sharp noses and razor sharp teeth. These were what caused my brother to have a nervous breakdown. He was terrified of these things. Otto becomes close with Leo and decides he can’t feed him to the Mommos, and he even takes the time to explain to Leo that he’s been doing this for decades and has lured “a great many” children for them. But the Mommos have these little gremlin lackeys (they had a weird name, can’t remember) who force Otto to bring Leo to the Mommo’s world. Otto instead kills two of the gremlins and then forces the third to serve his dead buddies to the Mommos in Leo’s place.

And then, because the Mommos are apparently allergic to gremlin, they die horrible horrible deaths.

I swear. I swear I saw that happen. Don’t look at me like that. This was a real show. THIS WAS A REAL SHOW DON’T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT DAMN YOU.

Recently, requests have been made to RTÉ to release the series on DVD, but RTÉ have claimed they don’t own the rights and anyway they’ve never heard of that show and furthermore this isn’t a TV network this is a pizza parlour there’s no TV network here and never was GOOD DAY SIR.

“Never speak of this again.”

In fact, it’s not clear who owns the rights. Like everything else about this show, it’s…well…a riddle.

Maybe it’s better that way. As much as I want to rewatch the whole series to discover if it really was the Dada-esque brain fever I remember, in my own mind I’ve built this show up into something so terrifying that I could only be disappointed with the reality. Besides, in this age we are so bereft of mysteries. There’s something so compelling about this show that refuses to be pinned down, analysed and catalogued. It came, it went. And all we have left to piece it together are a couple of stills and our fading memories.

And we can’t even remember the girl’s name.

50 comments

    1. I was thinking Candle Cove too! And then I started thinking, “oh, Mouse is just doing his April Fool’s bit about a week early.” But no, there are the pictures and the video. So I don’t know what to make of this.

  1. Man, that one WAS creepy. Amazing it isn’t better known, it seems unforgettable in the worst possible way.

    Brings back memories, too. Not that I’ve ever seen this show (thank God), but the puppets remind me of something that people were sure I was making up until the internet became a thing and proved me right.

    Jim Henson produced a super obscure show for HBO called The Ghost of Faffner Hall. It starred puppets, but not the usual cutesy Muppet ones (not as the main cast anyway). Instead they’re these semi-realistic, uncanny-valley inhabitants.

    It didn’t last long, and has never been released on home video. I think the Disney Channel may have rerun it like once, at 3 in the morning. So unknown I can’t even find the intro, just a few random clips on the Jim Henson Company’s own channel.

      1. Then you are among the elite!

        I wonder if it’s a little better known in Europe. Seems to have been a British/American co-production, and I think it’s set in the UK. But if it were less obscure anywhere, you’d think it would be easier to find online.

  2. That’s…. That sounds like a Twilight Zone or something. It’s actually kind of cool that something that strange and unknowable in the internet age. Thank you for sharing this nightmare.

    1. It’s very real. I’m 29 and have vague memories of what must have been early on in the Otto arc where Leo’d already gotten in trouble and was talking to Otto, who telekinetically wrecked something else (another toy? Something of Rory’s?), and upon exclaiming was told to shut up and go to sleep.

      This wasn’t the only time I saw the show but it’s one of the two clear memories I have of it.

      (And we had the English channels so it’s not like we had no choice of what to watch.The fook, Ma and Da..)

  3. On the subject of lost media, here’s something I vividly remember watching once when I was a child:

    It was some kind of Lady and the Tramp knock off animated movie, or maybe something based on the same short story Lady and the Tramp also was based on. The animation was obviously not up to Disney’s standards, I think it might have been some kind of Ruby-Spears-made TV movie. I don’t think it was by Hanna Barbera or Filmation, but it still was somewhat along those quality lines, it must have been animated in the late seventies or most likely early eighties.

    The thing that stuck with me was how the Tramp-like dog met the Lady-like protagonist when she was a pup, saved her through some cheesy adventures I don’t remember the specifics of (sea travel was involved, maybe?) and then at the end they ‘married’ and had a litter, much like Lady and Tramp, when she was already an adult. It struck me as majorly weird and sort of creepy, that might have been my first exposure to May and December romances and jailbait wait.

    The thing is, I can’t find any evidence of that movie ever existing now, and I don’t even remember its title. Internet searches have proved fruitless. Please, guys, is there anyone here who can give me some help on this? Or am I insane and remembering something that never existed?

      1. I seem to remember a gang of dogs, and maybe one of the perils the puppy was through involving (badly animated, of course) fire, but I don’t remember any specifics about any shoes.

  4. I googled the show, got to the Lost Media wiki page, and then came across the photos.

    Don’t look at the photos. Trust me on this.

  5. Whoa, thank you there, Mouse. You’ve just put to rest a riddle of my childhood with that whole Scruffy thing. Respect.

  6. There are weird shows I vaguely remember watching but can’t find much info on. Apparently they were Austrialian shows that randomly aired on some American TV network for awhile.

    I also remember way back when on Mario Bros Fansites it was a legit mystery whether or not an Anime Super Mario Bros movie was made in the 80s.

    I also remember trying to verify the existence of Batman fights Dracula. That one is still iffy.

    1. I’m guessing you mean either Lift-Off, Mr Scribble or Round the Twist. Here’s everything I know about my proud people’s creepy-ass nineties shows.

      Lift-Off had a weird cartoon intro with things transforming into other things in a really unsettling manner. It was about the adventures of a couple of kinds and their multicultural friends… some of whom were puppets. I see a lot of American sites getting the creeps about EC, the puppet with no face. EC is short for Every Child.

      Mr Scribble was about a clown puppet with a pencil for a nose. He drew things on an emo blackboard and… lived on the moon? I think?

      Round the Twist was the best (and the weirdest) and was really popular here and overseas. The episodes were based on short stories by Paul Jennings, the first horror/magical realism writer many of us came across. It was about a family who lived in a haunted lighthouse and weird things happened to them. The older brother once got pregnant from peeing on a tree. The sister cloned herself. The little brother was pursued by a monster made from all the crap on the floor of his room. There were ghosts at the beach and at the fun fair and in the toilet. There were underpants that gave you superpowers and a fish that gave one of the boys a ‘whirly willie’ which made him really good at swimming. The father was an artist, the stepmother was a teacher and the local business mogul was always trying to sell their lighthouse.
      To this day, if you sing, ‘Have you ever?’ to an Aussie, we’re practically hardwired to go, ‘Ever felt like this? Have strange things happened, or are you going round the twist?’

      1. “Rooouuuwwwwnd thaaaaa TWERST! Wahahahaha!”

        Mithrandir, somehow I missed Wild Kat? Probably because it was on Channel Ten when most of the kids’ programming was on 22 and 23.

        And, as Flight of the Conchords has taught us, there’s a very easy way to tell Kiwis and Australians apart. They’re like, ‘where’s the car?’ and we’re like, ‘where’s the car?’

  7. “And a Facebook page of people essentially saying the same thing: “Oh my God this was real I thought I dreamed it this was the most terrifying thing ever”. Other than that, this show is a ghost.”

    My experience with something like this (minus the terrifying part) was, no joke, Quest for Camelot. For YEARS I thought it was just a supremely bizarre vivid dream I’d had until we were at Target one day and I happened to see it on the shelf and started freaking out that it was real.

  8. TV Tropes has a whole community (I think it’s called Name That Show?) based around helping people recall lost media. You obviously already know what it’s called, but would you like me to shop around on there, maybe find other people with half-submerged memories to fill in more pieces of the puzzle?

  9. Eerie. The one media piece I recall but can’t find anything about online is this one video which had a bunch of… music videos, I guess? I can’t remember the title, because as kids, my sister and I always just called it “The Singer-Songers”, even though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t actually called that. It had segments involving a host who was an old man less than a foot tall (I think there was one where he talked to a rabbit larger than himself?) and several of the music videos were preceded by the camera panning down this tunnel called the … something tunnel, I think it was an alliterative name. Some of the music videos had live action footage (including a bunch of animals, a kid chasing his kite to a song whose chorus went “heeey, wait for me!” and one where a bunch of kids clean the house for their mom), some with footage from old cartoons spliced together while the songs played (I think there was one that went “what am I afraid of?” that had footage from that cartoon, “Play Safe” which featured creepy, talking trains this kid tries to engineer, nearly causing a collision), and the most unique videos were these segments featuring stop-motion animation of inanimate objects, the main character being a glass with a green monster painted on it who would always enter the house by riding a literal flying saucer in, and appearing out of it when it crashed and shattered. One of the most memorable songs was called “Baking a cake” and featured a bunch of stop-motion footage of kitchen utensils baking a cake, and I think the last song on the video was called “Bounce Back” and involved the glass making chocolate milk inside itself, then drinking out of itself (somehow…). Also, the later stop-motion videos also had a kids’ drawing of a girl on the fridge who was always freaked out when the flying saucer showed up.

    If anyone knows what the hell I’m talking about (doubtful), I’d be grateful to get any leads on this.

  10. Was the girl’s name Una? Or maybe that was the later episodes where their cousins from Wyoming came to visit.i remember too much of this TV show that eh never existed.

  11. Is this a picture of the mommos?
    homepage.eircom.net/~evalundin/images/Conger-Sisters-RR_jpg_jpg.jpg
    I stumbled upon this photo on the lost media wiki, and it seems to match some of the discriptions of them I’ve seen

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