The Claim: Dean Koontz predicted the coronavirus outbreak in his 1981 novel "The Eyes of Darkness"
A Facebook post that has been widely shared claims a 1981 novel written by Dean Koontz predicted the coronavirus outbreak.
The post shows an image of the cover of the book along with a page from the novel featuring dialogue describing a fictional virus called “Wuhan-400.”
“The book written by Dean Koontz in 1981, ‘The Eyes of Darkness,’ wrote on pages 353 to 354 that China has developed a virus known as Corona Virus in a lab in the city of Wuhan, to be used in the future as weapon in future wars or to disturb future economic imbalance amongst the world powers or control its population,” the post reads.
The user who shared the post did not respond to USA TODAY for comment.
Other users shared a similar claim, with a slight difference in the details. Another post claims that the prediction can be seen on page 333, not on pages 353 to 354. A meme on Instagram about the novel also gained attention.
Wuhan not mentioned in first edition
The 1981 edition of “The Eyes of Darkness” that can be viewed on Google Books shows that the virus was originally named “Gorki-400” for being developed outside of “Gorki” by Russians. The first edition has no mention of “Wuhan-400.”
In a later version of the book released in 1989, the name of the virus was changed to “Wuhan-400.”
It is not clear why the change took place. Koontz did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.
The South China Morning Post reported that the book “appears to have been rewritten after the collapse of the Soviet Union meant the country was no longer seen as a communist bogeyman.”
It is speculated in the article that the change to the book came in 1989 because it marked the end of the Cold War, so an “American author pointing the fictional finger of blame at Russia would not have gone down well in that climate.”
Virus mentioned, differs from COVID-19
A passage from the novel on page 353 reveals that it is true that the novel includes a fictional virus named "Wuhan-400" but the fictional virus mentioned in the book possesses different traits from COVID-19.
“Wuhan-400 is a perfect weapon. It afflicts only human beings. No other living creature can carry it,” the novel reads. The novel states that the biological weapon is called “Wuhan-400” because it was developed at RDNA labs outside of Wuhan.
While the origin of the novel coronavirus remains unclear, claims that the virus was manmade for use in bioweapons have been proven untrue based on scientific research.
Koontz’s novel also states the “strain of man-made microorganisms” can’t permanently contaminate objects and that once infected, no one can live more than 24 hours because the virus has a 100% kill-rate.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 death rate is not yet entirely known as many factors affect the outcome of the overall mortality rate, such as age and health history.
A symptom described in the book is a toxin that migrates to the brain, eating away at brain tissue resulting in a loss of function in the body. Coronavirus symptoms include a fever, cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Our rating: False
We rate the claim that Dean Koontz predicted the coronavirus in his “Eyes of Darkness” novel as FALSE because it is not supported by our research. While the book describes a fictional virus, Koontz has not stated that the events in his novel were a prediction of what would later become a reality and has not spoken publicly about the book since recent events. The original version of the book had no mention of Wuhan and was changed later in 1989 for unconfirmed reasons. Furthermore, the virus described in the book is not similar to current symptoms and effects of the coronavirus.
Our fact-check sources:Dean Koontz, "The Eyes of Darkness" 1981 versionSouth China Morning Post, "China wasn’t original villain in book ‘predicting’ coronavirus outbreak – it was Russia"USA TODAY, "Fact check: Coronavirus not man-made or engineered but its origin remains unclear"USA TODAY, "Fact check: Does COVID-19 have a mortality rate of 1%-2%?"Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus Disease 2019 symptoms
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