The Doanes were a family who lived in Sunflower, Louisiana. Mr. Doane was a wealthy writer who came to Sunflower to work on his next novel. The Doanes bought a large home outside town and were considered model citizens. Mrs. Doane was an accomplished painter. William Doane, the son, won the highest honors ever awarded by Sunflower High School, and daughter Karen was a gifted poet. Later their story turned dark and the townspeople of Sunflower are loathe to talk about them.
In Fever Dream, Special Agent Pendergast and Vincent D'Agosta came to Sunflower to and stumbled on the story of the Doanes. They went to the abandoned Doane House to investigate. They found the home in a frightening state, with furniture and trash strewn everywhere and large holes punched out of the walls. The inhabitants appeared to have lived like squatters, eating out of cans and using the corners as latrines. A boarded up room contains Karen Doane's diaries. The diaries revealed that the family's troubles began when a large gray parrot turned up at their home. The parrot had a metal band on its leg with a number, but no name. The Doanes attempted to find the parrot's owner but no one came forward, to Karen's delight. The family decided to keep the bird and named it Muffin.
Some time later, Helen Pendergast came to the Doane home asking about the parrot. She explained that she was a scientist and the parrot escaped from her lab, but without proof Mr. Doane refused to give up the bird. The woman asked for a phone book and when Mr. Doane went to fetch one, she stole the parrot and left.
The parrot was part of a research project with the goal of creating a mind-enhancement drug. It had escaped from Helen's lab and turned up at the Doanes' home. By the time Helen found the bird it had already infected the family with a strain of avian flu. For a time, the virus enhanced their cognitive function and made them highly creative, but eventually it drove them insane.
One by one, the family succumbed. William was arrested and imprisoned for murdering two people with an ax. Mrs. Doane committed suicide, and the daughter was committed to an asylum, where she died after refusing to sleep for two weeks. Mr. Doane became a vagrant who wandered the town threatening people and committing acts of vandalism. He was killed by the police in his house after he became violent and resisted arrest.