3 Shows That I Maybe Made Up Inside My Head

You know how sometimes you remember something from childhood – a picture from a book, a song you liked when you were three – but you can’t quite remember enough details to figure out what it was? This happens to me all the time. I insist that my mom must remember, for example, this book I loved as a kid about a birthday cake that expands so much in the oven it takes over an entire village, but no matter how many times I describe it to her, she never has any idea what I’m talking about. But I can still see one of the pictures perfectly in my head! It exists, I swear!

Of course, with the invention of the Internet, Google-stalking our own trippy childhood memories can become an obsession unto itself. I’ve successfully tracked down some weird and wacky movies of which I could recall only a single haunting image, not to mention that song I heard in a Parisian shoe store when I was thirteen. Often, researching one memory leads to the discovery of another show, book, or movie I had completely forgotten about.

Here are three of the television shows I loved deeply as a child, despite the fact that most normal human beings I encounter have never heard of them.

Ghostwriter

Okay, any of you Ghostwriter fans reading this are probably slapping your foreheads in frustration right now, thinking, “This girl’s an idiot. EVERYONE knows about Ghostwriter! Rally at Captain Obvious’s house!” But seriously guys, over the years I have met a shocking number of people who have never, ever heard of this show. And when I excitedly describe the premise down to the last detail, they kind of can’t believe it ever existed. They certainly don’t think it sounds good. Oh, but it was. For those of you uninitiated, Ghostwriter was a children’s television show that aired on PBS from 1992-1995. The story centers around a group of pre-teens in Brooklyn who use reading and writing skills (I mentioned this was PBS, right?) in order to solve crime with the help of an invisible ghost who can only communicate through reading and writing. PRETTY EXCITING STUFF!

Each mystery spanned four or five half-hour episodes, so if you were a super-fan you could also hop on over to the local video store and rent a VHS featuring just one of the mysteries in its entirety. I was very into Ghostwriter. Let’s just say that I may or may not have started a Ghostwriter fan club on the AOL message boards, of which I was a very strict and demanding president, eventually resulting in one of the club’s members informing me that “the world doesn’t revolve around Ghostwriter.” But let’s be real here, my world did.

Lenni, the fashion-forward bohemian of the bunch, was my favorite, and please know that she could give Blossom a run for her money when it comes to rocking floppy, denim hats. Ghostwriter is now available on DVD, proving once and for all that this show did, indeed, exist. I brought the first season to Thanksgiving with my family this year, and we watched a few episodes. The thing about a show whose sole purpose is to teach kids about reading and writing is that if you already know how to read and write, things are going to feel like they’re moving a little slooooooowly. But the fashion was as sharp as I remembered, and I was happy to find that I could still recite the opening credits voice-over. He’s a ghost, and he writes to us… (you know you know it).

Under the Umbrella Tree

While I acknowledge that Ghostwriter has a clear and occasionally vocal fan-base out and about in the world today, Under the Umbrella Tree most certainly does not. Other than my cousins, the only person I know who’s seen this show is my friend/coworker/hero Lena, who’s seen literally everything, so it kind of doesn’t count (it totally counts). This was an odd little program created in Canada and fed to me by the Disney channel in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The premise involved a human, Holly, as pictured above, living with three puppets named, from left to right, Iggy, Gloria, and Jacob.

The show got its name from the fact that inside their apartment lived an “umbrella tree”. I’ve never heard of an umbrella tree outside of this show, but according to Wikipedia it’s a real thing. Each episode focused on a theme or lesson to be learned, like “Exercise is good for you,” or “Singing is fun!” or “Handkerchiefs are for blowing your nose.” While we were told to believe this motley crew lived together equally as roommates, Holly was the clear mother-figure, cooking, cleaning, taking care of things around the house, and dispensing wisdom at every turn, often in song, with that cheery, Canadian accent of hers. I’m not completely aware of what I loved about this show, but I’m sure the inexplicable mingling of humans and cute puppets had something to do with it. Also, their free-wheeling lifestyle and cozy, kid-like quarters gave the whole thing a smoothed-out Pee Wee’s Playhouse kind of a vibe. Plus the theme song is legitimately addictive. Don’t listen unless you want to be humming it every day for the rest of your life.

Noozles

I have the strangest memories of this pretty little cartoon, and to this day I haven’t met anybody who’s ever heard of it. If you’re out there, please let’s become friends. Noozles was created in Japan and re-dubbed to air on Nickelodeon in the mid to late 80s. Apparently its time slot was 1pm on weekdays, so I guess I was catching this only when I was home sick from nursery school, which might explain why any attempts I make to think about this show feel like trying to remember a fever dream. The main characters are a girl named Sandy and her two koala friends, Pinky and Blinky, who are from a magical extra-dimensional place called KoalaWalla Land. That’s where normal ends and holy mother of all things crazy begins, because this show is INSANE.

So, the koalas are actually stuffed animals when we’re in our normal, Earthly dimension, but any time Sandy gives them a “noozle” (an eskimo kiss), they become real. Eventually, they bring Sandy with them to their home-world, a parallel dimension where anthropomorphic koalas, kangaroos, and other exotic animals live freely, all under the domain of a wise old koala called the High Dingy Doo. Oh, and humans will be arrested just for being in KoalaWalla Land, so Sandy has to wear a koala mask when she’s there. And they get there via secret portals, which Pinky the koala creates using a magic lipstick. Over the course of the series, this trio uncovers some really messed up stuff, including but not limited to the spirit of Sandy’s grandfather trapped in a crystal orb, which leads them to the mysterious African “Wisemen Stones” which need to be used as joysticks to prevent Earth and KoalaWalla Land from destroying each other. I’m starting to think the existence of this show proves that there were some really hardcore psychedelic drugs circulating Japan in the mid-80s. Needless to say, I bought the first episode on VHS a few years back, convinced my koala-loving pal Susie to watch it with me, and those old sparks were definitely still there.

Given the evidence I’ve uncovered via Wikipedia and Youtube, it’s safe to say these shows did actually exist and that I’m probably not the only person in the world who watched them. But if anyone else has a memory of that children’s book about that yummy cake taking over a whole village of forest creatures, contact me immediately.

Images via katecoloredglasses.wordpress.com, dvdtalk.com, listal.com, wikipedia.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=48919003 Stephanie Rudolph

    i watched Ghostwriter and Under the Umbrella Tree! i think the latter is just a Canadian thing though… that’s what happens when your parents only let you watch TVO, CBC and PBS!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sassleysc Ashley E. Renz

      Stephanie Rudolph I can can assure you Noozles was not only in Canada! LOL I grew up in South Carolina in USA and I LOVED that show. It was definitely aired in America! I loved Ghostwriter and Under the Umbrella Tree too! Wow add these three to the list of shows I fondly recall and I realize that although I love to read and always have, I was pretty much raised by a television.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1250490067 Jaleh Darling

    Ghostwriter was THE shit. I still have it on VHS and introduce my friends to it whenever possible.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mollyjay Molly Jay

      Yes! I own a disturbing number of episodes on VHS too – so glad I’m not the only one (given most people give me that “you crazy” look…) I don’t even have a VCR right now, yet I can’t bring myself to give them up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chad.hewitt Chad Hewitt

    Anyone else remember Round House on Nickelodeon?

    • http://www.facebook.com/audsey Audrey Leihser

      Heck yes!

    • http://www.facebook.com/arhartman Amanda Hartman

      Yes! Loved that show too!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sassleysc Ashley E. Renz

      Who could forget!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jnross Jennie Ross

    OMG! I have been trying to figure out what show did I keep remembering that had the characters on Under the Umbrella Tree! I literally just got chills when I saw this. I LOVED this show as a kid!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brunagabriella Bruna Pinheiro

    Ghostwriter!!!!!! It was the best!

  • http://www.facebook.com/arhartman Amanda Hartman

    YES. I loved Noozles!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8373367 Samantha Johnson

    There is a show that I remember watching as a kid that I cannot, for the life of me, remember. I just remember that there were bees that were maybe brother and sister…and it came on around the same time as David the Gnome.

    • http://www.facebook.com/arhartman Amanda Hartman

      Maya the Bee?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504177987 Heather Tyler Mercer

      David the Gnome! I forgot about that show, loved it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000096396007 Jessica Duhn Grabinoski
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000096396007 Jessica Duhn Grabinoski

    Never mind. That book is from 2001. I kind of remember a cake taking over a village in a book, too. Also, Stone Soup. I couldn’t believe people ate dirty water and considered it soup.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=17101045 Laura Ortega

      Haha, I remember Stone Soup, too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sassleysc Ashley E. Renz

    Stephanie Rudolph I can can assure Noozles was not only in Canada! LOL I grew up in South Carolina in USA and I LOVED that show. It was definitely aired in America! I loved Ghostwriter and Under the Umbrella Tree too! Wow add these three to the list of shows I fondly recall and I realize that although I love to read and always have, I was pretty much raised by a television.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23313411 Lauren Urycki

    I remember all three of these! Under the Umbrella Tree was one of my favs. Thanks for sharing about Noozles! It’s one I could never remember the name of. Another show that no one else seems to remember is Gummy Bears. (I think it was on the Disney channel)

    • http://www.facebook.com/sassleysc Ashley E. Renz

      I remember Gummy Bears! Ahhhh! And Tailspin?!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=839914043 Alison Christine

      I recently netflixed all of the Gummi Bears Series and made my boyfriend ( who had never even heard of the Gummi Bears) watch it …. He loved it …. We then tried to make our own Gummi Berry Juice

    • http://www.facebook.com/laura.nickel Laura Nickel

      I watched Gummy Bears all the time as a kid!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sassleysc Ashley E. Renz

    How about Gullah Gullah Island and Allegra’s Window? I was a little old for them when they aired but I have a much younger brother. The former was filmed and based in Charleston, SC, where we grew up.

    • http://www.facebook.com/clayray3290 Clara Yoon

      I totally remember Allegra’s Window and Gullah Gullah Island! I feel like some of my friends remember Gullah Gullah Island but none of them remember Allegra’s Window. Wasn’t there some vegetable or something that they really liked in Allegra’s Window? Rutabaga or something?

  • http://www.facebook.com/zombiemama Sara Keiser Scott

    Ghostwriter was a great show, and I LOVED Under the Umbrella Tree! I have never come across anyone else who has heard of Under the Umbrella Tree, though. I live in Ohio, so maybe we were just close enough to Canada to be in on the secret? There was a time when I also wondered if it was just some weird made-up memory. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sassleysc Ashley E. Renz

      Nope, I grew up in SC and I totally remember Under the Umbrella Tree. I keep humming the song right now lol. You just don’t know anybody as cool as yourself 😉

  • http://www.facebook.com/kcostantini Katherine Costantini

    I definitely remember Noozles and Ghostwriter!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000241445587 Jess Candee

    Let me just tell you that I’ve researched and researched the Noozles because, like you, everyone thought I was nutty! I used to watch all three of these shows and I was just playing a game with my family over Thanksgiving and my answer was Under the Umbrella Tree (no one believed me, again)!! It nice to know that SOMEONE out there is just as “crazy” as me :) This just totally made my day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/coyness Sarah Coyne

    Under the Umbrella Tree was one of those shows that got me so excited for those “free Disney Channel Week/Weekends” when I was a kid that I would fake sick and try and stay home to bask in a full day of that forbidden fruit! Eventually my parents caught on, but I loved that show enough to write about it in one of my 3rd grade journals. Along with “Mannequin”, another strange kid’s show I’m 99% sure was Canadian and that nobody ever talks about!

    • http://www.facebook.com/madelinekircher Mädi Kay

      I believe the he “mannequin” show you are referring to was called “Today’s Special”, and yes, it sure was Canadian. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/coyness Sarah Coyne

      Yessss! Today’s Special! Canadian accents and puppets were two running themes in my all-time favorite shows!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1330375219 Cara McMahon

    Oh my goodness! Yes! I have this feeling all the time about movies and tv shows from my childhood! I thought Ghostwriter was a weird dream until it started rerunning on Noggin in the early 2000s and I became addicted! I used to love the Noozels too! But I still have that weird “did I just dream that?” feeling about almost any children’s show that ran on TLC in the mid 90s….Professor Iris anyone? Or were my brother and I the only people who watched this block of television lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=839914043 Alison Christine

    I Fotching Loved All of these shows and I’m totally surprised that anyone else has heard of under the umbrella tree I had totally begun to think that that show as in fact a figment of my imagination !

  • http://www.facebook.com/clarissa.n.nash Clarissa Nicole

    I don’t remember these other shows, but Ghostwriter was my FAVORITE! I used to think I was part of the show too. Oh the memories.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cassidy.elaine.anderson.lamb Cassidy Lamb

    I remember Ghostwriter, and I was for a long time haunted by bits and pieces and unable to place what it is.

    I am still haunted by this image of a live action movie (reminiscent of Wayne’s World), where the two characters go to bake a gingerbread man and he grows to live size in the oven and hilarity ensues.

    I can tell you the lay out of the house in whatever movie/TV show this is. It is not Stay Puft, it is not the episode of Gumby where this happens, it is not the B-horror movie Gingerdead Man. (These are common suggestions by people trying to help me figure it out).

    I’ve so many times tried to convince my mother that she MUST know what this is and how I saw it… she insists that I must be taking acid.

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