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.
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.
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.
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.