You’ve probably seen posts on social media that offer the surprising claim that a 1981 Dean Koontz novel predicting the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The 1981 Dean Koontz novel The Eyes of Darkness left conspiracy theorists buzzing. Someone discovered the novel involves a biological weapon called “Wuhan-400.”
Wuhan, a city in China, is where scientists believe the COVID-19 pandemic began.
I like Koontz’ novels. To be honest, I never read The Eyes of Darkness. I’ve read more books by Koontz than any other author, but somehow I missed that particular title.
Koontz released the novel under the pen name Leigh Nichols. Wikipedia describes it this way:
The book focuses on a mother who sets out on a quest to find out if her son truly did die one year ago, or if he is still alive.
It certainly sounds like an intriguing premise.
But “Wuhan-400” is not COVID-19. The Eyes of Darkness was not a prediction of what was to come. It, like Koontz’ other work, is a work of horror/suspense fiction.
And that’s about it.
Snopes.com points out several issues that clearly illustrate differences — not similarities — between the fictional bug and the real one. Among them, “Wuhan-400” carries a 100% mortality rate. Fortunately for us all, COVID-19 carries a very small mortality rate despite being highly infections.
But what about the location? The conspiracy theorists love asking about the odds that Koontz would pick the obscure little Chinese town way back in 1981 that is associated with the pandemic of 2020.
They base that question on a lack of familiarity with China’s cities. Wuhan is not some obscure little Chinese town. In fact, it’s the third most populous city in Central China. People sometimes call it the “Chicago of China.” (Chicago, at 2.7 million people, is the third-most populous city in the United States.)
You can count up how many novels are set in Chicago as much as you like. Forgive me if I don’t wait for a final tally.
Some iterations of the social media post include a passage that isn’t from Koontz.
Snopes also reports that an additional passage specifically predicts the pandemic and says it will happen in 2020.
Now this would be an accomplishment. Imagine Koontz writing a book in 1981 about a pandemic that starts in 2020 with the name “Wuhan-400.”
There’s just one problem: this passage that predicts the 2020 pandemic is not part of Koontz’s novel. It was written by someone else — a psychic, no less. But this second passage only mentions the pandemic. It doesn’t mention Wuhan.
And predicting a pandemic isn’t exactly a sign of psychic prowess. This particular book was published in 2008. Since about 1996, well before the book went to press, there have been eight global pandemics, counting COVID-19. A worldwide pandemic may seem pretty rare and it is a coincidence the year happened to line up. But given the number of them, it was probably just a bit of good luck on the guessing.