The latest conspiracy theory to take the internet by storm, that suspense-horror author Dean Koontz predicted the coronavirus outbreak, turns out not to hold up to much scrutiny.
Devotees of the theory point out that Koontz’ s 1981 novel The Eyes of Darkness features a killer virus named Wuhan-400 after the Chinese city from which it originates.
The theory appears to have begun with Twitter user Nick Hinton, who posted an image of a page from the novel with several passages underlined.
“A Chinese scientist named Li Chen defected to the United States, carrying a diskette record of China’s most important and dangerous new biological weapon of the past decade,” one reads.
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“They call the stuff ‘Wuhan-400’ because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside the city of Wuhan, and it was the fourth-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at the research centre.”
While the Wuhan coincidence is startling – coronavirus, or COVID-19, was indeed first identified in Wuhan – upon further examination Koontz’s novel is not quite as clairvoyant as the theory would have it.
For a start, the virus The Eyes of Darkness was originally called Gorki-400; its name was changed in a 1989 reprint, most likely because with the end of the Cold War China was a more obvious enemy than Russia.
But the virus in the novel is also quite dissimilar to the real life disease, and not only because it is a lab-created biological weapon.
The fictitious Wuhan-400 has an incubation period of four hours and 100 per cent mortality rate. As described by Koontz it “literally eats away brain tissue like battery acid dissolving cheesecloth.”
Coronavirus, on the other hand, has an incubation period of several days to two weeks and its mortality rate is closer to 3 per cent. It has flu-like symptoms including fever, coughing and shortness of breath.
An earlier dubious theory suggested that coronavirus, too, was man-made, but that has also been firmly debunked.
Koontz, himself a prolific tweeter, has yet to weigh in.