Fact Check

Was Coronavirus Predicted in a 1981 Dean Koontz Novel?

A speculative anticipation of a possibility is very different than a 'prediction.'

Published Feb 18, 2020

Dean Koontz, prolific book author, is set to come out with his latest work, Odd Apocalypse, the fifth book in a seven book series to be released on July 31st, 2012. Koontz was photographed in the library of his home Newport Coast, an affluent community in Newport Beach, Ca. This section of the library is filled with just his books – 6,000 unique editions in 36 different languages, 22 feet of shelving, with 8 shelves on either side that go from floor to ceiling. Koontz said there were perhaps 1,000 other unique editions that were missing from the collection of his own work.  (Photo by Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) (Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Image Via Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Claim:
Author Dean Koontz predicted the 2020 new coronavirus outbreak in his 1981 novel "The Eyes of Darkness."
What's True

An image shows a genuine page from Dean Koontz's novel "The Eyes of Darkness" containing the words "Wuhan-400."

What's False

Dean Koontz did not predict an outbreak of a new coronavirus. Other than the name, his fictional biological weapon had little in common with the virus that caused a real outbreak in 2020.

When readers first came across a biological weapon named "Wuhan-400" in Dean Koontz's novel "The Eyes of Darkness," we doubt anyone had the notion that the famous thriller author was "predicting" a real-world outbreak of COVID-19, coronavirus disease. But in February 2020, after such an outbreak had occurred, eagle-eyed Koontz fans shared this passage as if the famous thriller author was a prognosticator. 

This is a genuine page from the novel "The Eyes of Darkness." The passage can be seen in Amazon's preview of a mass market paperback edition of this novel that was released in December 2008.

It's true that Koontz named a fictional biological weapon "Wuhan-400" in this novel. It's also true that Wuhan, China, is the city at the center of the 2020 coronavirus outbreak. However, that's pretty much where the similarities end. 

Here are a few things this "prediction" gets wrong:

  • In Koontz's novel, "Wuhan-400" is a human-made weapon. The coronavirus, on the other hand, was not
  • In the novel, "Wuhan-400" has a 100% fatality rate. While researchers are still learning about the coronavirus, the current fatality rate sits at about 2%. 
  • The fictional "Wuhan-400" has an extremely quick incubation period of about four hours, compared to COVID-19 which has an incubation period between two and 14 days. 

But there's more bad news for this prediction. 

While the page from Koontz's novel displayed above is genuine, other iterations of this book used a different name for the fictional biological weapon. In fact, when we searched a 1981 edition of this book available via Google Books we found no references to "Wuhan." In that edition, this biological weapon is called "Gorki-400" after the Russian city where it was created. 

We're not entirely sure when or why this change occurred. From what we can tell, the biological weapon was originally called "Gorki-400" when this book was published in 1981. But by 2008, the name had been changed to "Wuhan-400."

Regardless of when "Wuhan-400" made its way into Koontz' novel, this is not a prediction. Koontz did not claim that the events that took place in his novel would later come to fruition, and the similarities between "Wuhan-400" and COVID-19 are minimal. Furthermore, readers only noticed this "prediction" after an outbreak of coronavirus was reported in Wuhan, China, which makes this "prediction" nothing more than a coincidence. 

Another image supposedly showing a second page from Koontz' novel "The Eyes of Darkness" was also circulated on social medias as further evidence that the author had "predicted" the COVID-19 pandemic:

This page does not come from Koontz' novel "The Eyes of Darkness." This actually comes from a book called "End of Days" by self-described psychic Sylvia Browne. You can read more about Browne's "prediction" here.

 

Sources

Taylor, Chloe.   "Coronavirus is More Fatal in Men Than Women, Major Study Suggests."     CNBC.   18 February 2020.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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