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Category Archives: Anatomy
Phishing is the most prolific category of cyber scam. Others include romance scams, mugged in London scams, advance fee frauds and many more. Most scams seek to part you from your money phishing is unique in seeking your personal data, usually in the form of passwords and bank details.
This is the defining difference we will use here. If the scam is after money, it is a scam. If it is after credentials, it is phishing. Whether its vishing (by phone), smishing (by chat), whaling (after the big fish), or spear-phishing (targeted phishing), its all basically phishing for personal data.
There are technology aids to prevent phishing but given the FBIs latest report notes 114,702 phishing attacks in 2019, ultimately leading to the loss of nearly $58 million, it is fair to say that they are not foolproof. The best way to protect yourself against phishing attacks is to recognize them. The best way to recognize them is through a knowledge of their anatomy and structure and how they work.
The two primary categories of phishing are standard and spear-phishing. The former is untargeted, large-scale phishing usually delivered in spam campaigns. This is often known as spray and pray phishing. The latter, spear-phishing, is where an individual or small group of related people, are precisely targeted.
We have probably all been subject to and have recognized a spray and pray campaign. A quick look in our spam folder will probably show dozens, all filtered out by our email service provider. They are relatively easy to recognize, often including typos, grammatical errors and have a general unprofessional appearance. According to the 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, click rates on phishing emails are at an all-time low at just 3.4%.
This makes spray and pray a numbers game. Any given phishing message has a 96.6% chance of being ignored by its victim, even if it makes it through the email services automated filters. However, this means that for every hundred messages successfully sent in a spray-and-pray campaign, we can expect three or four people to fall victim to it. If a campaign manages to distribute 100,000 fraudulent messages, this gives the hackers 3,400 compromised victims.
Spear phishing is more sophisticated, often more technical and is potentially more damaging than spray-and-pray phishing. Spear-phishers will research their target or targets using different forms of OSINT (open source intelligence, such as social media), gathering information on the targets habits, which services they use, their contacts and more. With this information built into the email, the message can appear to come from a trusted source, and will often be convincing and compelling.
It is worth mentioning that since spray and pray phishing is easy to detect, many people believe they cannot be tricked by any phishing. This is dangerous. There is probably no one in the world who could not be spear-phished. Consider the case of the Telegraph journalist who effectively challenged a white hat hacker to break into her computer. He did just that by spear-phishing her with the opportunity for a compelling news story combined with a sense of urgency.
Victims succumb to phishing attacks because of the combination of the structure of the email and the lure it contains, and the inclusion of various emotional triggers that elicit the response required by the attacker. Well discuss these next as the anatomy of a phish and the emotional triggers. If we understand how we are phished, we will be better equipped to recognize and ignore (or report) a phishing attack when it happens.
Anatomy of a phish
Well focus on email phishing, as this is both the most common vector for phishing attacks and allows us to analyze the complete anatomy of phishing messages.
The visible email header is that part of the email we can see before we open it. It is the attackers first opportunity to catch our attention, but is also the point at which many spray and pray campaigns immediately fail. The intent is to appear to be an interesting subject from a trusted source. A spray and pray example from my own spam folder is from _ nooreply[@]l1i.affpartners.com. High Priority is not a person, but is intended to add a sense of urgency to the email (see emotional triggers below), encouraging potential victims to open it before stopping to think. A moments closer inspection lets us see more holes: l1i.affpartners.com doesnt look like a legitimate domain, and nooreply is probably a typo for the more usual no.reply or no-reply.
Spear-phishing attacks can be more subtle. If you have a friend or colleague with the email address John.Smith[@]company.com, attackers may message you as John.Smith[@]google.com, using an open email service and hoping you dont notice the different domain.
The subject line of the header is key to a good phish it is the primary factor in what makes us decide whether to read the email or not. It must be short enough to be easily processed by the target, but needs to contain strong emotional triggers to make itself hard to ignore. Effective phishing subjects will leverage either a sense of threat, urgency, or the prospect of gain for the user. According to research by KnowBe4, the most clicked phishing subject is Change of Password Required Immediately, with similar lines accounting for another three of the top 10 most clicked phishing subjects. International disasters also offer compelling subjects, with curiosity, fear and compassion being typical emotional triggers and the COVID-19 pandemic is a clear illustration.
With all forms of email scam, the body, or content, contains the lure. Loosely, the lure can be seen as the bait that is used to tempt the phished to take the hook (the payload, see below).
By this stage, the attacker has successfully convinced the target to open and read the email. Now the lure in the email body must convince the victim to click a link or respond. The lure is typically full of emotional triggers designed to engage the victim favorably. Consider this example of a spray-and-pray lure:
Leaving aside that I never do online surveys, the grammatical and spelling errors as well as odd syntax typical of spray and pray attacks make it obvious that this is a phish. The two most obvious emotional triggers are greed (who wouldnt want a free iPhone?), and urgency (the target is given just 24 hours, or this opportunity will be taken away). Other common phishing lures range from commonplace and plausible (but fraudulent) invoices and delivery notifications to more grandiose legal threats, or simply masquerading as charitable or governmental organizations.
The payload is the crux of the phishing email. The most common payload is a malicious link; this can lead to a malicious or compromised website where a falsified login screen harvests credentials and sends them to the attacker. The link can be in the body of the email or found in an attachment.
Any payload link is usually disguised. In the above example, the click here button is the payload. If you hover the mouse cursor above a link, most browsers will display the URL in the bottom left of the screen, allowing you to see the actual destination. To counter this, many phishers are using URL shorteners like Bitly to hide the real destination our example shows as https:// t.co/YwTb24fxMI ?amp=1. URL obfuscation is always suspicious, so any email containing a shortened or obfuscated URL should probably be treated as phishing until proven otherwise.
The header, the subject, the lure and the payload form the fundamental structure of a phish, but success or failure rests on the emotional triggers contained within the message. Emotional triggers are there to prompt an immediate, unthinking, knee-jerk reaction, because the more we can think, analyze and consider a phishing message, the less likely it is to succeed. Consequently, it is important to give ourselves time. Even if an email appears both urgent and legitimate, setting a rule to never respond to any email without a small thinking period can go a long way to helping us keep a cool head and seeing through the emotional manipulation.
The main emotional triggers are listed below, but it is important to remember that any combination of them can be included in a phishing email, and the more sophisticated attacks will make use of them in very subtle ways.
Greed may be the earliest emotional trigger that phishing scams have tried to exploit. The greed trigger goes even further back than the infamous Nigerian Prince scams, but there are still many attempts to capitalize on greed to this day. In late 2019, Microsoft employees were targeted with a phishing campaign purporting to disclose upcoming salary increases. The payload was a link to a fraudulent login screen designed to harvest Microsoft Office login credentials. Two axioms are always important to bear in mind when opening any email: nothing in life is free; and if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Urgency is commonly present in phishing. Rather than being an effective emotional trigger by itself, urgency must work in conjunction with other emotional triggers: You have a free gift but must claim it within 24 hours. We have embarrassing information to share with all your contacts if you dont respond by midnight. If the scammer can remove the victims thinking time or push them into a panic state, it drastically increases the chance of successfully tricking the target.
Good mental defenses against urgency are difficult to cultivate because urgency is specifically designed to disrupt those mental defenses. However, it is useful to remember that if you receive an email or a message that fills you with dread, its likely that whoever sent it wants you to panic. Counterintuitively, taking feelings of urgency as a sign that its time to stop and think carefully can help foil most of even the most effective phishing campaigns.
Fear can apply in a lot of different situations and contexts. There is often a strong interplay with urgency, especially when it comes to fear of bad consequences if we dont respond immediately. Fear plus urgency often equals panic, and can be used in legal threats or threats to release intimate personal information.
Fear can also be less visceral fear of missing an opportunity and fear of being uninformed can be equally compelling emotional triggers. Phishing scams often prey on both fear of danger, and fear of missing out (FOMO).
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a spate of phishing scams that target both of these aspects of fear; the deadly and contagious infection has many of us fearing for our safety, and there is a strong desire for us all to stay informed and up to date on all the latest developments (or obtain one of a very limited supply of (non-existent) vaccines).
While most emotional triggers exploit our base instincts, our better nature can also be used against us. Any crisis, emergency or disaster tends to cause a spike in phishing emails attempting to capitalize on it. Phishing emails can impersonate a charitable organization or a person in need. The spate of tropical storms over 2018 and 2019 prompted a variety of organizations (including the FCC) to issue official warnings about post-disaster scams, urging users to verify any charitys credentials carefully. These so-called charities arent after your donation, theyre after your bank details.
Curiosity can be a particularly dangerous trigger, as we often dont consider that just having a look can put us in danger. The same principles that apply to clickbait articles online can be used in phishing; any sufficiently sensationalist subject line could be irresistible to our curiosity: you just wont believe entry number 7! In the wake of Kobe Bryants death earlier this year, clickbait phishing with subjects like amazing, shocking, or never before seen! became so widespread that it prompted the Better Business Bureau to issue an official warning to consumers.
Technological defenses against phishing
Businesses and cybersecurity organizations are always looking for ways to prevent phishing with technology. As much as these technological solutions may help to mitigate phishing and reduce the exposure of users to phishing scams, the continuing prevalence of phishing and the damage it causes mean we have to consider them a failure so far. According to the 2020 DBIR, 22% of all breaches over the past year have involved phishing, while around 80% of all social type attacks are phishing messages of some kind.
Browser developers maintain blacklists of known phishing websites which can help prevent users visiting malicious URLs. This is only partially effective, since the average phishing campaign lasts for just 12 minutes the malicious website changes before it can be added to the blacklist.
Artificial intelligence is also used to scan emails to detect phishing. This can be effective with spray-and-pray phishing, but AI products entail high expenses, and tend to be useful only to companies rather than consumers.
DMARC short for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance is a technology that unequivocally works against phishing, some of the time. We wont go into the details of the technology (DMARC is built on the top of other technologies, notably SPF and DKIM, that were also designed to counteract phishing), but just explain why it works when it works, and why it doesnt ultimately help the end-user.
DMARC works against what is known as exact domain phishing. This is where the phishing email appears to come from the exact, expected, and correct domain (as shown in the From line of the header). If DMARC is fully installed by a service provider, the technology confirms that the message has genuinely come from that domain. If not, it assumes phishing and blocks it.
To demonstrate how well this works, consider the UKs tax authority, HMRC. In 2016, this domain was the 16th most phished domain in the world. HMRC then installed DMARC, and has since dropped to number 126 in the world. During this period, DMARC stopped 300 million attempted phishing emails.
However, DMARC can do nothing to stop non-exact domain phishing. This is where the from domain in the email header is a look-alike rather than the genuine exact domain. So, for example, I could register the domain hnnrc[.]co.uk (or hnnrc[.]uk or hnnrc[.]org.uk or hnnrc[.]me.uk all of which were available at the time of writing in the genuine expectation that a percentage of recipients would not notice that hnnrc is not hmrc.
The second weakness in DMARC is that only a tiny percentage of firms have implemented it. But the real weakness is that the end-user has no way of knowing whether a received email has been DMARC-checked or not. Consequently, all received emails need to be considered suspect, whether or not DMARC is involved.
There is an attempt to solve the last problem with the introduction of yet another technology: BIMI, or Brand Indicators for Message Identification. BIMI only works where DMARC has been fully and correctly implemented. If the email service provider knows through DMARC that the email is genuine, and if the sending domain has implemented BIMI, the email service will insert the domains logo into the email list. So, if you check your email list and see the expected sender logo, then you can be confident the email is genuine and not a phishing email.
But again, only a tiny percentage of organizations have fully implemented DMARC, and only a tiny percentage of those have implemented BIMI. It is not likely to happen, but exact domain phishing could be eliminated if DMARC and BIMI were required email standards. In the meantime, from the end-users perspective, DMARC does nothing to solve the phishing problem even though it works.
We are much more likely to be fooled by phishing than we think. For example, in a survey conducted by PhishMe last year, only 10.4% of respondents believed that fear was an effective motivating factor in opening an email. However, a simulated phishing email threatening the recipient with a legal complaint was opened by 44% of participants. Just 7.8% believed they would be taken in by the prospect of an opportunity, but a spoof phish purporting that the targets were eligible for medical insurance was clicked by 39.2% of participants.
It is often said that the weakest link in security is the user, but with enough awareness and understanding, this doesnt need to be the case. Technology does not yet have a reliable solution to phishing, and these attacks cannot be dealt with by anti-malware or general cybersecurity due to their psychological nature. If we can recognize phishing attacks by understanding the anatomy of a phish, stay calm and vigilant, and not allow our emotional buttons to be pushed, users can become the strongest link in security.
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The Anatomy Of A Phish | Avast - Security Boulevard
My name is Gus Lobban. Im a songwriter, producer and one-third of the indie-pop group Kero Kero Bonito. In January, our world changed in a way that we couldnt have imagined: Kero Kero Bonito were brought into the world of Bugsnax.
Ill never forget the briefing phone call Phil at Young Horses got straight into it. So, the games called Bugsnax, and its about this island where all the creatures are part bug, part snack, and when the Grumpuses eat them, their body parts transform into them. Let me know if youve got any questions! Erm, yeah, uhhh
My starting point for Its Bugsnax! was the D-Am chords the song rests on. The I-Vm chord change and the Mixolydian mode it implies conjure a lost world atmosphere to me; positive, but with a definite note (pun intended) of mystical intrigue, much like Bugsnax itself. I built up the song from there by programming a drum track, then improvising chords on a keyboard while singing hooks over the top. I made the songs form similar to earlier KKB songs like Picture This, which Phil had explained felt close in spirit to what they were looking for.
I laid down most of the track including the drums, pan flutes and kalimba with my Roland JV-1010, a multi-timbral sound module from 2000. I love using old rompler modules because (as well as my affection for the fifth-gen game soundtracks theyre used in) they pack a variety of evocative sounds and theyre easy to use, which lets me focus on composing and arranging.
The song needed a non-vocal hook to set the scene, so I came up with the melody that opens Its Bugsnax! off the top of my head and played it with a patch on my DX7 I programmed for the last KKB album.
My Roland JV-1010, which provides many of the sounds for Its Bugsnax!
Lyrically, Ian McKinneys song about the Young Horses game Octodad: Dadliest Catch was a useful reference. The catchiest songs are often the most obvious that songs chorus is basically just Octodaa-aaad, and Bugsnaxs title ended up being our main hook too. The lyrics mostly relay the experience of playing Bugsnax in a literal way (a classic KKB technique), while the line talkin bout Bugsnax came to me in a flash of divine inspiration, for which I was a mere Vessel.
We couldnt meet up to record the vocals, so Its Bugsnax! was the first KKB song to use our remote lockdown recording setup. Our singer Sarah nailed the vocals the first time, and Young Horses were clear about what they wanted, which made putting everything together easy. Seeing the gameplay footage match up with the corresponding lyrics in the trailer was very satisfying.
The original handwritten lyrics
We had no idea how Bugsnax was launching. Phil just referred cryptically to the event. We should have put two and two together, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise when the PS5 reveal came around. You never know exactly how a song will be received, but Its Bugsnax! has had a particularly wonderful response; within days of the announcement Id seen it soundtracking memes, covered by metal and folk artists and reacted to by toddlers. The latter was quite moving, since some of my giddiest childhood memories were fueled by the excitement of new video games, and contributing to someone elses experience of that is really, really special.
Its Bugsnax! is already one of my favourite KKB moments so far. To all of you whove found it stuck in your head, sung it to your dog, or just wondered what the hell was happening, I have this to say: it isnt over yet.
Listen to Kero Kero Bonito on Spotify
During her 10 seasons on Greys Anatomy, Sandra Oh was so deeply invested in playing Dr. Cristina Yang, shed often get into heated debates with the writers about her character.
In an interview with Varietys Actors on Actors issue, Oh spoke to Kerry Washington who starred in Scandal about what it was like going to-to-toe with Shonda Rhimes, who created both shows.
I spent a lot of time with writers, and television is all about your relationship with the writer, Oh said. What I was able to get from Greys is to have the responsibility and the relationship with the writer to be able to direct where shes going. If something kind of came up which was like, That is completely wrong, I would go toe-to-toe with Shonda and a lot of the writers, which has been challenging. But I think ultimately, for the entire product and our relationship, if youre fighting for the show, if youre fighting for your character, people can tell that.
Oh recalled a story line in Season 3 of Greys Anatomy when Cristina was going to marry Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington).
Most of the shows that I have done have not been Asian-specific purposefully, Oh said. When we did Greys, for at least the first 10 seasons we would not talk about race. We would not go into race, and that was purposeful. And, whatever, it was the right thing to do when it was. In Season 3, Burke and Cristina were getting married and there were the two mothers, the Asian mother and the Black mother, and Im like, Come on, there is a lot of story that we can do here! But they didnt want to touch it, for whatever reason. Now my interest is much more in bringing that story in.
Kerry Washington said that when she read the scripts for Scandal, shes always start with positive feedback before suggesting any notes.
Any of the writers who I worked with, Im sure they know my face, Oh said. What can I say? I have a Korean mom, and shes got a tough face to place. Shes got a tough face!
Its the truth, Washington said. Youre a truth-teller, which is a beautiful thing.
I feel like, when I look back, because its been six years now since I left Greys, I feel like one of my biggest successes, for me, was I dont feel I gave up, Oh said. We did 22 episodes, but in the early years, it was 24. It was crazy. Then you have to kind of pick your moments of where you can lay off the gas pedal, because it is such a slog. There would be scenes that I would just go, I dont know, 10 rounds on, and I know I was difficult. And I really respect all the writers there who rode it out with me.
What does that mean, you would go 10 rounds? Washington asked.
I would go 10 rounds in saying, Its not right,' Oh said. Youve got to do different levels with the writer, and then you bump it up and you eventually get to [Shonda]. Youve got to bother her. When it felt like such an impasse, we would both be digging in our heels hugely. But just the friction itself, a lot of times a third thing would come out, and it would not be in my sight of consciousness at all; it would take that pushing against someone equally as strong. I started to learn how to trust that.
Oh recently wrapped the third season of Killing Eve, and Washington stars as Mia on the limited series Little Fires Everywhere.
For more from Varietys conversation with Oh and Washington, read our full story here.
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Sandra Oh Reveals Why She Fought With Greys Anatomy Writers and Shonda Rhimes - Variety
For the last 15 years, Mandy Sullivan, who teaches Grade 6 at St. Francis Elementary School in Richmond, has been creating a little extra time from April to June to help prepare the schools annual graduation ceremonies. Of course, the template she and her team developed over that time has been all but discarded this year because of the COVID-19 epidemic.We normally get together early in April to start talking about the graduation exercises, Mandy Sullivan says. The two Grade 6 teachersJasmine Mason has been teaching the other Grade 6 class the last few yearsare always involved but were always joined by four or five other teachers who want to help out.One of the first things we have to do is narrow down the list of students who are candidates for awards and prizes, she explains. In all there are about 20 awards given. Some students will get a plaque, others receive a book, and this means getting plaques engraved and shopping for books.In May, she continues, we start talking to the students about graduation, and we spend time on the valedictorians address. The students are conscious that this is a moment to both look back and look ahead, at the end of one phase of their education and the beginning of another. Interested students write a short valedictory speech as an exercise in writing and in public speaking. Students and teachers are involved in selecting the student who will deliver the valedictory address at graduation. Some years we have two valedictorians, and some years theyre joined by one or two other students who will recite something.In June, as graduation grows closer, the committees job list grows longer, and more people get involved.Both the Richmond St. Patricks Society and the St. Francis College Corporation present awards and we have to get in touch with their representatives, Mandy says. We also contact Kirk Robinson, the principal at RRHS, and invite him to address our graduates as our guest speaker. Perhaps most important we begin coordinating with the Parents Participatory Organization because they are the people who are in charge of the reception that follows in the gym right after the graduation exercises.These are held in the large space that was designed in the early 1940s to serve the dual purpose of auditorium and gymnasium. It can accommodate about 250 people, Mandy points out, but its a space that fills up quite quickly. Typically, graduating students want to invite their entire families: parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles. We just dont have the room. Depending on the number of graduates we havethis year there are 40they are given three, or four, or five invitations to give to the guests they want to have there.A surprisingly large number of people put in a lot of time and effort to organize the graduation exercises and reception, an event that lasts little more than two or two and a half hours.Its a milestone, Mandy explains, and its important to underline that, to make it a memorable moment.There was no question of not doing something this year, despite the pandemic, she asserts. We didnt know what to do, or what could be done within the constraints set by public health officials, but we were determined that we would do something this year as well.Since elementary schools reopened their doors in May, adapting the school environment to follow the rules of social distancing has posed a considerable challenge, one that has been met with a variety of stratagems.Jasmine Mason and I both had a class of 20 students this year, Mandy points out. Jasmine continued teaching from home, communicating with her students via computer while I taught in the classroom where I had nine students, plus a tenth who joined us for the last week.Were adaptable and flexible and we managed, says Mandy.That same adaptability and flexibility went into the preparation of Junes graduation exercises which were staged as a drive-thru event that took place on Monday, June 22. Starting at 5 p.m. cars with parents, graduates and other family members inched along as they would at a Tim Hortons.For full story and others, subscribe now.
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Anatomy of a COVID-19 graduation - Sherbrooke Record
By Christopher de Souza
There has been a major revival of Rembrandts paintings at the Hague this year. Among the many paintings opened for viewing was the one picture that I was most familiar with: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicholaes Tulp. It was introduced to many doctors in Mumbai more than 30 years ago. And they were introduced to anatomy and Rembrandt.
Anatomy is taught to students in their first year in medical college. It is mistakenly thought that anatomy is a dead subject since it is taught on cadavers and skeletons, on lifeless, glass slides viewed through a monocular microscope and on brightly coloured, luridly painted, inanimate charts. Once the euphoria of getting into the MBBS course has worn off the study of anatomy in all its aspects is viewed as a necessary evil in order to get to the clinical sciences where the real living action is.
These skills brought him into the department of Anatomy of the BYL Charitable Nair Hospital and later he became the Dean of the Nair Hospital. There he infused his students with his knowledge and wit.
He would begin with a question, How do you know the sex of a chromosome? No one knew the answer to that.
By pulling down its genes, he would say with a twinkle in his eye pointing to the Levi and Wrangler jeans that the students wore which were the rage at that time.Needless to say there were plenty of guffaws and right to this day many of his students remember that statement.
When teaching the study of bones, he would hold the bone in his left hand and enquire, To which side of the body does it belong?
The left side sir, would be the reply. Right, he would say with an impish smile. He made it a point to find out what a student knew rather than dwell on what they didnt. This was atypical of examiners of that time where examiners looked for lacunae in your knowledge and used that to hammer home your weaknesses and fail you.
Dr Eustace would pepper his teachings freely with references to art, literature and music and so exposed us all to the importance of the study of anatomy as a frame of reference.
Spend a night with Venus and a lifetime with Mercury, was one of his favourite aphorisms regarding the once primitive treatment of syphilis. Most of the students who had no understanding of Roman mythology were carefully explained the connotations and play on words. Venus the god of love transmitted syphilis which was treated long agoby administering mercury a dreadful and painful medicine (the god given the healing caduceus by Apollo). The lifetime of the patient was brief because the cure was worse than the disease.
Dr Eustace de Souza informed us that artists like Leonardo Da Vince spent lifetimes dissecting human bodies in secret to get a better understanding of the human body. Their studies were responsible for now making the study of human anatomy an art and a science.
Da Vincis illustrations of the fetus in the womb and the Vitruvian man were shown to us to better understand how privileged we were to get an actual human body to dissect and appreciate its intricacies. This sense of privilege has stayed with me and nearly all my colleagues,all our lives enhancing our appreciation of the sanctity of life and its residence; the human body.
He had in his office on the third floor, a picture titled The anatomy lesson of Dr Nicholaes Tulp by Rembrandt. The students were asked to find out what was wrong with the picture. None of us could identify the flaw in this marvellous painting. He then showed us that the muscles in the corpses left hand were shown to be arising from the outer side (lateral epicondyle) of the hand when actually they should have arisen from the inner side (medial epicondyle). We were also treated to a short informative discourse on Rembrandt and his other paintings.But, this image remained vividly with us. Whenever I visited his office it was on prominent display.
I moved to the USA to do a fellowship and many years later I had the good fortune to be appointed a professor at the State University of New York in Brooklyn. Following a series of lectures, a dinner was hosted for me at an exclusive black tie event near the Hudson river. Incredibly, there were pictures of Rembrandt on the wall. There was the Nightwatch, Bathsheba at her bath and I saw the one picture with which I was most familiar, The anatomy lesson of Dr Nicholaes Tulp. Dr Lucente my host, saw me get excited and was amazed that I was able to correctly identify this painting and I also pointed out to him the flaw in this picture. He was amazed because he was unaware of this facet of the painting. I spent the evening talking to him about Dr Eustace J de Souza. By then a crowd had gathered around us. When I finished recounting my experiences he raised his glass of wine and said, It appears that you received more than just a lesson in anatomy by this great man Dr Eustace de Souza. I think you received more than mere lessons. You received,what is now extremely rare and what I would call,an extraordinarily good education.
(Dr Christopher de Souza is editor-in-chief of The International Journal of Head and Neck Surgery and honoray ENT Head and Neck Surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital)
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's own. The opinions and facts expressed here do not reflect the views of Mirror and Mirror does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
Our historical walkthrough of Garfields Nightmare answers many important questions, including whether or not Jim Davis creator of Garfield ever rode it.Published on Wednesday, Jun 24th, 2020
I remember the first time I floated slowly through the watery, Day-Glo tunnel emblazoned with pizza, Ruffles chips and foot-tall cans of Mountain Dew.
A journey through Garfields Nightmare lasts less than five minutes, but the ride sticks with you prompting lingering questions like how did a ride featuring Americas premiere lasagna-loving, Monday-hating cat end up at Kennywood? Last fall, I decided to embark on a journey of my own, to uncover the history of this beloved and much-maligned attraction. And although there were no Ruffles or 3D glasses involved, it was a journey that took more turns than I ever expected.
In September of 2019, I met up with Nick Paradise, Kennywoods Director of Public Relations. We chatted on a bench just down the path from Garfields Nightmare. Nick acknowledged that I wasnt the only one with lingering questions about the ride, saying, we hear a lot of feedback about it. Its probably one of the rides that generates the most conversation. People largely do want it to go back to the Old Mill, whatever that may mean for them.
Over the years there have been a lot of iterations of the ride. It was originally built as The Old Mill in 1901 (and rebuilt in 1921), but between then and now, it was also re-themed as Fairyland Floats, Rapid Gorge, The Panama Canal, Tour of the World and Hard Headed Harolds Horrendously Humorous Haunted Hideaway among others. Every few years theyd rename it The Old Mill again though the theming was always different.
Brian Butko, Director of Publication at the Senator John Heinz History Center, looks at it from a historical perspective. A majority of people in recent years say they dislike Garfield, but decades ago, it was the Old Mills haunted Old West theme that was scorned for being dated and dumb. At the time, it had become boring except for couples needing some dark/quiet time.
Andy Quinn, who retired as Kennywoods Director of Community and Government Relations a few years back, agrees. It didnt matter what the theme was. Anyone who rode that ride in the sixties, seventies, eighties, they were not on that ride to look at the scenes.
Andy was the first person I reached out to who had been working at Kennywood during the rides Garfield-inspired transformation. I thought that he might be able to provide some context for Garfields arrival in the early 2000s. Andy explained that at that time, there was a big push for amusement parks to align themselves with popular cartoon characters. Six Flags had Looney Tunes. And Jim Davis (the creator of Garfield) looked around at all the parks and all the big ones were taken. Our company had five parks at the time and I believe it was Jim Davis who called us.
We had a long relationship with Jim Davis, Pete McAneny told me. Pete was the General Manager of the Kennywood Entertainment Company from 2003 to 2008. Since hes retired, hes been spending a lot more time with his grandson, who he was on his way to pick up when I reached him on the phone in his car. Pete recalls that his first contact with Garfield creator, Jim Davis, was related to an entirely different project. Jim Davis wanted to build a Garfield themed park in Indianapolis and he asked if wed come out and take a look at it and so we went out and met with him.
An entire theme park just for Garfield?!?! Just think of the possibilities! Lasagna bounce house? Odie tongue splash ride? A 90-minute musical revue celebrating Garfields beloved teddy bear, Pookie? Sadly, it wasnt meant to be, according to Pete, that Indiana park never really came together. The property was there, but there just wasnt the infrastructure for it or the capital. And so we talked about doing a Garfield ride at Kennywood.
I tracked down Larry Kirchner after I saw his company, Halloween Productions, mentioned briefly in a 2008 Pittsburgh Post Gazette article about new attractions at Kennywood. In the early 2000s, Larry was installing a ride at Kennywood when he noticed that the Old Mill hadnt been updated in a while, so I mentioned that if anything comes up with any of your dark rides, we would love to do it. I would almost do it for free. Larry started Halloween Productions, based in St. Louis, in 1989 and, as you might have guessed by the name, they had mostly built haunted houses and spooky rides up until that point, but he was excited to get into the dark ride business. As I learned in my research, dark ride is the industry term for an indoor ride that sends cars (or boats or trains) of visitors through lit scenes or tableaus. For instance, Its A Small World at Disneyland is a dark ride as is Pirates of the Caribbean and, of course, Kennywoods Old Mill.
Pete knew that it was time for The Old Mill to be replaced, but he initially wasnt sure what to put there. Its a high maintenance ride with a huge footprint. There were some suggestions that we should tear it down and use that parcel for something that had a higher capacity, but tradition and history is an important thing at Kennywood. Then he remembered his conversation with Jim Davis. They had already integrated some Garfield theming into the new Pounce Bounce in Kiddieland, but Jim Davis was especially interested in a dark ride. Pete admits, he wanted to sell merchandise, obviously. He thought if we put a ride together like that, then it would help.
So I got a call, Larry told me, and Pete said they were thinking of turning it into Garfields ride, but the budget wasnt that big. Larry took the job. As Pete remembers, Jim Davis himself wrote the script for the ride and did the initial drawings, but Larry remembers it a little differently. We did 20 or 30 drawings. He didnt do anything. I never talked to Jim Davis. The biggest thing was he, or someone, gave us some Garfield books and then we had to figure out which story we wanted to tell.
Initially, Larry had big plans that involved 3D effects and CGI and animatronics. We wanted to make it look like a billboard smashes open and theres a Frankenstein food character, and then we squirt them all with water. I wanted to do other CGI effects so it wasnt so static and so the characters were interacting with them. Obviously, there was a budget thing. In addition to budget restraints, there was another reason that they had to scale the ride back. Larry remembers being told that, we cant make it too great because too many people would want to ride it. It has a pretty limited capacity since its a boat ride.
Pete recalls that too and explained that many decisions at a theme park come down to ride footprints and capacity. On a good day, that ride can accommodate 3,500 people in 10 hours. One of the things we had to do is not make it too spectacular because it doesnt have a high capacity. So on a day that theres 15,000 people in the park and if you made it too good, youd have a line up to the Rankin Bridge.
Larry looked through the stack of Garfield books hed been given, he remembers, I came up with a simpler ride where it was more like you were riding through a book. So youd see these captions and comics that showed him having a nightmare. I asked Larry how they ended up going in the nightmare direction. We were known for Halloween and haunted house stuff so thats probably why we went in the direction of Garfield having the nightmare.
Reworking a hundred-year-old ride comes with some challenges. Larry points out that, without doing some massive redo, you couldnt move people faster or slower. Since the flow of water is controlled by the one big water wheel at the front of the ride, theres no way to speed it up or slow it down. We couldnt do a lot of the things we wanted to do because those boats pass through those scenes so quickly.
Throughout the process, Larry had to submit everything to PAWS, Garfields holding company for review. We had to do drawings of every scene and then get them approved by the creator of Garfield. Despite the limitations and instructions to not make it too great, Larry and his team gave it their all. It took months. We built and painted all the sets in St. Louis and then we sent painters to Pittsburgh and they worked through the winter it was freezing.
Throughout the process, Larry kept getting inspired and sneaking in more details. We scrutinized every little thing. Wouldnt it be cool if there were a salt and pepper shaker? What if we added a fork? We just kept adding more and more stuff. We were really creative and I dont know if we made a penny doing it.
On May 1, 2004, Kenny the Kangaroo climbed into a wooden boat along with Garfield and Odie for the inaugural ride through Garfields Nightmare. I remember being there on the day that it opened, Larry told me. I was there with my whole family. I have a video of my kids riding it and they loved it.
Nick remembers his first ride a little differently. Its sort of humorous on a personal level because the first time I ever rode that with a girl, potentially for that private time, was the very first year that it became Garfields Nightmare. So you get in there and were like what is this? This isnt what we thought we were going into. So it kind of dampened the mood. Garfields Nightmare is many things, but romantic is not one of them.
Despite the many detractors to the ride, Nick was quick to point out last fall that, when you walk by on a Saturday afternoon and the line is spilling out of the queue its kind of like it cant be that unpopular.
I asked Nick if Garfields creator, Jim Davis, had ever taken a ride through Garfields Nightmare. Im not sure. I dont recall seeing anything in the coverage or in our photo archives. Now I was even more curious. I made a mental note to make sure to ask every other person I talked to, to see if I could determine whether or not Jim ever experienced the ride.
Rob Henningers family has been involved with Kennywood for over a century. He started working at Kennywood over thirty years ago as part of the grounds crew. Now hes the Assistant General Manager and Maintenance Director of the park. He remembers that first summer too. I thought it was cute when it was fresh and new and a nice addition for smaller kids in the park.
The ride worked out exactly as Pete had hoped. It attracted families but wasnt so popular that it attracted too large a crowd. Brian Butko from the John Heinz History Center notes that at the time, only one writer, a columnist, gave it much coverage, and he did mention that locals might be sad about the shift away from the tradition.
After opening, Garfields Nightmare stood intact for a decade and a half, welcoming hundreds of thousands of Kennywood visitors into its watery, neon channels. Rob mentions that as one of the older rides, it does take a lot of upkeep between seasons. The old tongue and groove system just swells up and it holds the water. If its not the last one in the world its one of two. We rebuild some of that trough every year.
In recent years, the public outcry for a return to the Old Mill has grown louder. In September of 2019, Brian posed a question in his Kennywood Behind the Screams Facebook group. He asked We know you want the Old Mill back, but tell us WHY. That post quickly garnered 236 responses. Brian believes that, one big factor in the shifting attitudes has been the rise of social media. There may have been regret at the time the Old Mill was changed, or when, say, the Dipper coaster or Gold Rusher dark ride were removed, but other than person-to-person chit-chat, the changes went mostly unnoticed. Now every minor tweak is shared instantly and a sense of outrage and entitlement can rise quickly if a crowd decides the change is for the worse.
On March 9, 2020, Kennywood posted a video to its social channels that, at first, looked like a historical retrospective. Nick Paradise is giving an overview of The Old Mills many versions before the video cuts dramatically to a shot of a crane removing the Garfields Nightmare sign from the rides facade. In the video, Nick announces, Were going to be bringing back The Old Mill as so many of you have requested, restoring the ride to the retro-western theme thats been remembered by so many over the years but with plenty of new twists for a whole new generation to enjoy. He pauses before adding dramatically, The nightmare has ended.
Over 1,300 people shared that post on Facebook alone.
Just a few months earlier I had chatted with Nick at Kennywood and while he had hinted that Garfields Nightmare might not be there too much longer, he also didnt say anything to indicate that it would be gone by the next season. It seems that some dealings in the greater media world might have forced their hand.
In 2019, Nickelodeon (a division of Viacom) bought PAWS (the holding company that owns the rights to Garfield and some of Jim Davis other creations). Rob says Garfields new ownership was only part of the equation. I think Garfields time has come and gone and so I pushed for the re-theming of the ride. It just kind of got stale over time and then they wanted to substantially increase the licensing fees so it felt like a good time to go back to the Old Mill that a lot of our guests were clamoring for. I asked if anyone at Kennywood campaigned to keep Garfields Nightmare. I dont think there was anyone pushing to keep Garfield. After 16 seasons at Kennywood, it seems the ride had lost its freshness, not unlike a 16-year-old lasagna still sitting on the counter.
While I had Rob on the phone I, naturally, had to ask him if he remembered Jim Davis ever visiting the park. Im not sure why I became obsessed with this question but I love imagining a very meta scene in which Garfields own creator rides through his own creations nightmare. Rob didnt recall Jim visiting but he did recall his brother, Dave, visiting Kennywood once.
I was curious about what happened to all those Garfield cut-outs and evil animatronic foods. Rob explains, Those had to be destroyed. It would have been fun to have them around but with all the intellectual property, we even had to document it being destroyed. Its strange to think of an employee at the Nickelodeon offices watching that video of Garfield and Odie and that giant animatronic bulldog being smashed and pulled apart.
Larry Kirchner, of Halloween Productions, was sad to hear the news. He still thinks back fondly of Garfields Nightmare, adding thoughtfully I think its some of the best artwork thats ever been done in blacklight. Its beautiful.
Larry also would have liked to be a part of this new chapter of The Old Mill. I wish that we could have redone it but they had some real time constraints and that was before coronavirus. They had to do it with some local people. Larrys still hoping to get back to Kennywood soon. He says, my new goal would be to redo Ghostwood Estates. He built the original ride and he thinks its ready for a refresh, adding that all the CGI effects were done before HD so I would love to redo them all.
Though Pete McAneny hasnt been the boss at Kennywood for a number of years, all the recent decisions made sense to him. You have to remember what the goal was back then to keep the Old Mill concept in place but not make it so great that everyone who came to the park would want to ride it. So you have to gear it to a younger audience. And thats probably what theyre wanting to do again.
As Pete and I were wrapping up our call, I thought Id ask my burning question one more time. Had Jim Davis, creator of Garfield, ever taken the trip through Garfields Nightmare? Pete responded immediately, He came to Kennywood, oh yeah, he came a couple times. He rode the ride. His brother came as well. He was coming through Pittsburgh and we had dinner.
Finally learning that Jim Davis did in fact float through the ride inspired by his feline creation was so satisfying. I imagine Pete and Jim sitting across from each other at an Italian restaurant, recounting their favorite parts of the ride as they dig into a piping hot, celebratory lasagna.
On June 7, 2020, Kennywood released a few photographs of the newest version of The Old Mill on their Facebook page. While Garfield and Odie are now gone, the Day-Glo paint scheme is still intact and there are even some appearances by the coyote from the old Gold Rusher ride.
While much of our offseason efforts were paused or delayed over the past three months, some ghouls got going in our oldest ride. Here's a little sneak peek inside The Old Mill
Posted by Kennywood Park onSunday, June 7, 2020
The comments were full of people both praising and criticizing the new look. Nick understands their strong feelings, saying, its always hard to compete with peoples memories. Thats always a big challenge here at Kennywood. We try to walk a fine line between staying on the cutting edge and staying modern while also honoring the past and peoples memories.
Brian Butko adds, My Kennywood: Behind The Screams group members sometimes veer into I wish the park was as good now as it was then. I like to ask, When was that perfect time 1996? 1965? 1950, 1930? Logically we could go back to 1899, but even then, they cleared hundreds of trees to change a picnic grove into a trolley park. So, of course, the real answer is, it was best when we were young enough for nostalgia to make it all seem perfect.
Im sure its only a matter of time before someone starts a thread on Brians Facebook group pining for the good old days of Garfields Nightmare.
Ill leave you with some bonus viewing.
In Case You Want to Relive the Version of the Old Mill from Just Before Garfields Nightmare
Header Image:Garfield makes an appearance at the grand opening of Garfields Nightmare in 2004. Photo courtesy of Kennywood.