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Did a 1981 novel predict coronavirus?

On Wednesday, I received a private message from a member of Prof. Brainy online group. In it, he said “Sir, this is what I saw…

On Wednesday, I received a private message from a member of Prof. Brainy online group.

In it, he said “Sir, this is what I saw on another platform I belong to. Though I am yet to lay my hand on the book to confirm its authenticity.

May Allah protect and salvage us. Ameen.”

A while later, my wife sent me the message. It appeared the prediction had started doing the rounds on the internet.

The accompanying images include the cover page of the novel “The Eyes of Darkness” and some inner pages with passages highlighted in red. These words were said to have predicted coronavirus or COVID-19.

Here some of the highlighted words:

“They call the stuff ‘Wuhan-400’ because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside of the city of Wuhan, and it was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganism created at that research center.”

Sounding so legitimate, these words nudged me to look further. So when my friend sent me the electronic copy of the book, I wanted to see if the words were actually in the book. So I employed the search function of the ebook to search for “Wuhan.”

And indeed the word was in there; actually, all the highlighted words were in the book. But anyone could have put together such a book and claim that it was written in the 80s. So I went online; first, to Goodreads and found that it was indeed a popular book written in the 80s.

What was left now was to see if the book actually predicted COVID-19. Therefore, I headed to the best place where such claims are either debunked or confirmed: Snopes.com.

As usual Snopes addressed the issue by answering a few questions.

What was the claim?

‘Author Dean Koontz predicted the 2020 new coronavirus outbreak in his 1981 novel “The Eyes of Darkness.”’

What is true about the claim?

‘An image shows a genuine page from Dean Koontz’s novel “The Eyes of Darkness” containing the words “Wuhan-400.”’

What is false about the claim?

“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.”

What is the origin of the claim?

‘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.’

Like me, Snopes found that the passage was actually from the book:

‘This is a genuine page from the novel “The Eyes of Darkness.” The passage can be seen in Amazon’s review 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.’

But here is where it gets interesting. Using four points, Snopes argued why this wasn’t a prediction.

One: “In Koontz’s novel, “Wuhan-400” is a human-made weapon. The coronavirus, on the other hand, was not.”

Two: “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%.”

Three: “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.”

Four: “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.”

So when was the name of this biological weapon changed?

“We’re not entirely sure when or why this change occurred,” Snopes wrote. “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.”

Another important question is if a prediction can be called a prediction if it was only noticed after an event has occurred. Snopes thinks not:

‘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.’

Therefore, before we share the next conspiracy theory, it is our responsibility to do a little research. Go to snopes.com for international claims and try the Premium Times newspaper to fact check local ones.

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