Fact Check: Was Coronavirus Predicted in a 1981 Dean Koontz Novel?

If a prediction is only noticed after an incident occurs, is it really a prediction?
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

However, Dean Koontz did not predict an outbreak of a new coronavirus. Other than the name, this fictional biological weapon has little in common with the virus that caused an 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.

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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. 

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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. 

“If you look really hard, I bet you can spot prophecies for almost all events. It makes me think about the ‘infinite monkey’ theorem,” he says.

The ‘infinite monkey’ is a theory where if a monkey hits the keys on a typewriter randomly, it will result in a text. Chan says the probability is low but it’s possible.

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