The Greys

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A typical Grey

Mystic: You watch the skies night after night looking for your Little Green Men...

Bishop: Little grey men, actually.

The modern version of the Little Green Men, and currently the most common depiction of extraterrestrials.

They have the same basic body plan as a human, but they're grey, somewhat shorter than a person, and have enormous heads with equally-huge black eyes resembling an upside-down-raindrop. They probably have no nose, and they almost certainly wear no clothes (though they will have no visible genitals). In the older stories, they sometimes got silver spacesuits. Sometimes they will be a muted blue or green instead, and very occasionally a beige variant.

Like the Little Green Men before them, they still tend to come in Flying Saucers. However, the overtly hostile version is much rarer; abduction is their primary modus operandi (which naturally may be taken as still fairly sinister of course). They will not speak in beeping noises, though, and they certainly don't know English. Mostly they will not speak at all. They may be telepathic.

What they do with those abducted varies, but performing experiments on them, especially intrusive sexual experiments, is common. Specifically, Anal Probing and the creation of Half Human Hybrids. Why aliens would be so interested in human sex remains unclear, although the standard story is that they are nearing extinction, and they need human genetic material in order to restore both their reproductive capabilities, and their ability to experience emotion. (It has been noted that their appearance and modus operandi share more than a passing resemblance to those of the more traditional Fair Folk, suggesting alternately an innate human need to believe in such beings or the length of time they've been studying us.)

Far from being black and grey, their beliefs are usually of the Blue And Orange sort. May be Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who haven't visited us since the time of the Pyramids. Despite the fact that Earth is an Insignificant Little Blue Planet, they will be obsessed with us for reasons which may vary. Perhaps they want to help us Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. Perhaps we are the Precursors. Perhaps they merely want To Serve Man.

In other cases, they may be benevolent or much wiser than humanity, often in a hippie sort of way, granting the abductees really trippy cosmic visions. They'll hardly ever do much more than that, though.

Compare with Humanoid Aliens, Little Green Men, and The Reptilians.

Examples of The Greys include:

Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • A galactic TV host in Keroro Gunsou, who's even named R Grey.
  • A Grey appears as a mysterious vision in Serial Experiments Lain, in an episode which also references the Roswell incident. It is referenced in other episodes as well. Unlike the usual nudist Greys, it is wearing a red and green striped shirt.
  • In the Shaman King manga, one of the plant guardians has a grey as his spirit, later on it is revealed that the shaman king position was created by these aliens, as are all the pieces of odd technology in the series.
  • America's roommate Tony from Axis Powers Hetalia. He's an illegal alien.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • It's implied in Transmetropolitan that a grey like alien race exists even though all we see are transients (people who have spliced themselves with alien DNA) and it's even offhandedly mentioned Earth has economically subjugated them. It is stated that they have a colony on Earth, and having already commodified their art and culture, their DNA is the last thing they had left to sell.
  • The Sons of Silence in the Archie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic.
  • In Elf Quest, the native forms of the High Ones kind of resemble elongated, yellow-orange variants of the Greys, with a bit of Rubber Forehead Aliens thrown in.


Fan Works[edit | hide]


Film[edit | hide]

  • The aliens in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are typical Greys, albeit with magnetic skeletons, as befits the films George Lucas Throwback nature.
  • The aliens who finally appear at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  • The Martians from the Steven Spielberg version of War of the Worlds are basically Greys, with some anatomical differences (like having three legs).
  • The alien invaders in Independence Day resembled Greys to an extent, including doing the stereotypical abductions and being behind the Roswell crash. The resemblance wasn't immediately apparent, as they wore biomechanical suits that looked more like Predators.
  • The alien invaders in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) once their helmets are removed.
  • The aliens in Fire In The Sky resemble Greys.
    • Their space suits even more so resemble the typical Grey, while their actual appearance is based more on abductee Travis Walton's descriptions.
  • The Kaminoan cloners in Star Wars Episode II:Attack of the Clones resemble Greys but with long necks and the males have crests.
  • While green, the surreal (and possibly the first color example) 1953 Alien Invasion film Invaders From Mars features bug-eyed, drone-like aliens whose M.O. shares a more than passing resemblance to the Greys. Hmmmm.
  • Mr. Grey from the film version of Dreamcatcher. They're actually disgusting shit-weasels in disguise—to look like the popular conception of aliens.
  • Greys appear in the Mokumentary horror film Alien Abduction Incident in Lake County, in a sinister home invasion that pre-dated Signs by five years.
  • The Eldritch Abominations in Progeny project the "Grey" image as a psychic mask. This version of the Grey has a different body plan though, stalk-like with tendrils.
  • Paul: The titular alien looks like one. It's mentioned that this has been put into pop culture so that this is what society accepts as what an alien looks like.
  • Signs, although a bit more sinister than most renditions.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Visitors in Whitley Streiber's Communion—possible Trope Codifier.
  • Animorphs has the Skrit Na, one of the oldest intelligent races in the galaxy (being around in the beginning of The Ellimist Chronicles), who baffle all the others. The Andalites, for one, have no idea why they put all those lights on their ships, nor their fascination with abducting natives and performing absurd medical experiments on them. Of course, they had made a number of visits to Earth before the Yeerks showed up. They enjoy taking random things from various planets like some sort of extraterrestrial pack rats.
    • In fact, the humans Elfangor meets in The Andalite Chronicles are "guests" of the Skrit Na (along with a bunch of semi-related junk and a reality-altering MacGuffin).
    • Played with rather interestingly in that the Grey form is the adult form of an (apparently barely sentient) larva that looks like a giant insect.
    • The Helmacrons look a lot like Greys as well, except very very small.
    • Word of God says that the Andalites were originally supposed to look like this, but the publishers asked for something more creative, especially since they hoped to one day make a TV show. It sort of backfired—Applegate responded by making the Andalites with all sorts of extra complexities (stalk eyes, tail blades, etc.), which made them almost impossible to replicate when said series actually got made.
  • Although the hostile take-over of Earth is not always a primary motive, the Greys (dubbed Mr. Grey by the U.S. Military) in Stephen King's Dreamcatcher were certainly a well known enemy of humanity, also capable of some shapeshifting and possession. Technically the aliens don't actually look like typical Greys; they're more like giant eel/weasel creatures who simply shapeshift into the classic humanoid body in order to manipulate humans.
  • In the novel Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan, what humans believe to be grey aliens are revealed to actually be ancient demons who want to take over everything.
  • Occasional Greys make an appearance in the Nightside series, usually as a gag (e.g. seeing one lying in the gutter with a "Will probe for food" sign). One of the Nightside's most secure locales, the Fortress, was founded by traumatized alien abductees, who are determined to fight back with guns, napalm, and possibly even nukes if the little buggers ever come near them again.
  • A race of diminutive grayish aliens with large heads appears in Andrey Belianin's The Thief of Baghdad novel, despite the novel's fantasy genre. They abduct the main character as he is fleeing from the guards. Needless to say, a glowing disc in the sky capturing their prey made a great impression on the superstitious denizens of Ancient Baghdad. Turns out, the aliens are from a peaceful interstellar alliance who have arrived to determine the best way to integrate humanity into the galactic community. They have used genetic engineering to become a One Gender Species (all of them are male, as certain factors of female biological cycle can make things... inconvenient) and wish the same "boon" on humanity. As can be expected, this idea doesn't go well with the main character, who instead offers to show them the benefits of two sexes. To that end, he uses their genetic manipulation machine to turn a female cat into something that looks like the female version of the aliens. They get excited and quickly kick the main character off the ship, excited to "study" this new creature. During the novel's climax, they once again appear before the main character, this time begging for him to take the female away from them, as they found that she is drastically upsetting their balance. He just laughs at them, and they fly away.
  • The inhabitants of Callisto (one of Jupiter's moons) in Spacehounds of I.P.C. by E. E. "Doc" Smith fit this description to a T. Like all humanoids in the book, they're on the side of the good guys.
  • The Greys make an appearance in the mashup novel The Tumbleweed Dossier. One even becomes a vampire.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The first appearance of aliens meeting this description in Western pop culture was an episode of The Outer Limits entitled "The Bellero Shield," which first aired February 10, 1964. People began claiming to have been abducted by aliens looking just like the ones from the TV show within weeks, which we are sure is merely a coincidence.
  • The Asgard in Stargate SG-1 are the wiser, benevolent version.
    • It's even discussed inside the show that they resemble the typical Roswell Greys, and that the Roswell Greys may even be based on them, given to that the Asgard have been observing the humans for long.
      • And then there's the fact that the Roswell Greys were actually said to be Asgard in one episode, as I recall.
      • In one episode An Asgard/grey named Loki spends an episode abducting people and has been doing so for some time.
  • The greys are the main villains of the Myth Arc of the The X-Files, performing human abduction and experimentation so they can eventually invade and enslave humanity. The Greys from space are emotionless, sociopathic, greedy, and super intelligent. The Greys born from The Virus infecting humans are wild, werewolf-like beasts.
  • The "star" of the Alien Autopsy video was purportedly an alien of this type.
  • The Vree in Babylon 5; in one episode, a station ombuds (something like a judge or arbitrator) has to deal with a lawsuit filed by the descendant of a UFO abductee against the descendant of the Vree who did the abducting. Naturally, their ships (seen in a few episodes) are round and flat.
    • There were three species that resemble Greys-the Streib and the Zener were the other two. And the Streib apparently abducted people as well...
      • The other two's names are Shout Outs: Whitley Streiber wrote the alien-contact novel Communion, and Zener cards are used by parapsychologists for psychic testing.
      • Unlike some examples of this trope, the Streib are not Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and when they attempt to prey upon powerful races can get a severe thrashing. When they tried to kidnap humans the humans intercepted and destroyed their ship, and when they tried that on Minbari, the Minbari "tracked them back to their homeworld and made sure they understood the depth of their mistake" as Delenn put it.
    • The Vorlons and Shadows apparently. The Vorlons after all abducted Jack the Ripper who for some odd reason wasn't missed much by Earthers.
  • Greys are the ones who created the Backstep Time Travel technology in Seven Days. One particularly nasty one named Adam is a villain.
    • Well, considering that the Roswell craft was actually a prison transport with Adam as the prisoner, it makes sense that he'd be a bad apple (no pun intended). Plus, what did the humans do when the wounded alien asked for help? Hit him in the face with the butt of a rifle, knocking him into a 50-year coma.
  • The TV show Dark Skies depicted an alternate version of the history of the 20th Century, with elements of the US government either battling or working with a covert invasion by the Hive, a race of Greys. Or, more precisely, a parasitic alien race that had conquered the Greys and were now working on us.
  • The few times we see the teen aliens' guardians in Roswell in their true form, they're classic Greys.
  • The Doctor Who ExpandedUniverse has the Tzun, who try to invade Earth in the 1950s. The standard Tzun are Greys, but they also combine their DNA with humans to create the "Nordics" reported by some UFO abductees.
    • The Nedenah are peaceful Greys in Devil Goblins From Neptune. A later book explains the Nedenah are one of the races the Tzun got DNA grafts from.
    • In the CBBC Doctor Who animated serial "Dreamland" there are a couple of Grey aliens that were captured in Area 51.
    • The Silence resemble Greys crossed with The Men in Black. Their enlarged craniums have hollows below their (relatively normal-sized) eyes to make them appear black and huge. They first show up in America, influenced NASA to go to the moon, and reappear in the season finale - inside a pyramid with a US flag painted on one side, dubbed "Area 52".


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • The greys show up in the Tabletop RPGs Alternity and later D20 Modern under the name Fraal. Most are in the wise and benevolent mode, studying the effects of alien intervention on humanity, while trying to safeguard them from aliens with less benign intentions... but some extremists believe that humanity is an inferior race that should be subjugated. However, this is just their default version; at least one campaign setting (for D20 Future) has them as conspirators implied to be plotting to conquer Earth.
    • Though they look considerably more humanoid than does the Grey at the top of the page: they have human skin tones and generally wear clothing.
      • Much closer to the mark, the Greys appear in the Alternity campaign setting Dark* Matter, which was a conspiracy game - sort of like a table-top X Files.
      • One Monstrous Compendium annual supplement imported the Fraal into Dungeons & Dragons as stranded dimensional travelers.
  • In BESM 3rd Edition, one of the racial templates is in fact, a Grey.
  • The "Call of Cthulhu (tabletop game) meets The X-Files" RPG Delta Green has the Greys as a mask worn by the Mi-gou, a race of fungus-like aliens with sinister intentions. They struck a deal with Majestic-12 (Delta Green's "replacement") and regularly supply them with reality-bending technology.
  • Warhammer 40,000 newcomers the Tau are close to this trope (perhaps the original Greys got purged?). The Tau have grey skin, dark eyes, and no nose, but they are taller than typical Greys, and have hoofed feet (They are evolved from grazing ruminants and uplifted through the pheremone glands of a giant insect). Though their vessels are not saucers, they favor smooth, rounded shapes, and their technology is apparently more advanced than the humans'. (In reality their stuff is actually less advanced, it just seems techier because they distribute it better and it looks fancier. The Tau are not so much about abducting people as they are about welcoming them into their empire, whether they want to or not. They subvert the trope by being relatively naive and idealistic in a thoroughly Grimdark setting - they justify orbital bombardment and sterilization as being "for the Greater Good" rather than killing out of xenophobia.
  • The Ka Luon from Mage: The Ascension.
  • In the New World of Darkness, The Greys are The Fair Folk conforming to the modern equivalent of Faerie and Faerie Abduction myths. Well, at least the confirmed ones are. The books point out that there could be real aliens, and you're free to include them in your game if you want.
    • The stereotypical Roswell Greys are later confirmed as actually existing in the Mage: The Awakening book Summoners. And so is the Chupacabra, although this version looks more like a sabertoothed canine than the "vampire Grey" of popular culture, presumably based on apocryphal accounts of autopsied Chupacabra corpses that resembled a unknown species of canine.
  • The RPG Dark Conspiracy features Greys as one of several extraterrestrial races the player-characters can encounter.
  • Continuum has the Inheritors, who are actually post-Singularity humans.
  • GURPS features Greys in some of it's settings. In GURPS Black Ops, the Greys are an amoral race stranded on Earth, and prone to abducting and enslaving people and performing bizarre experiments while waiting for their SOS to reach their homeworld. The Black Ops Conspiracy seeks to eliminate them before the Rescue ship arrives. In GURPS Atomic Horror, the Greys are known as "Alphans", and abduct people to extract genetic information, which they use to create new members of their species.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Pokémon Black and White introduced the Pokémon Elgyem, which is modeled after the Little Green Men but their shiny form is grey. Its evolution is brown in both forms.
  • The main character of Destroy All Humans! is Crypto, a Grey who landed far before they entered popular culture. His being frequently referred to as one of the then-common Little Green Men confuses and infuriates him.
  • In Deus Ex, there are no lifeforms of extraterrestrial origin. Greys do make an appearance, but they are actually genetically engineered humans created to test genetic modifications that would allow humanity to survive a hypothetical nuclear holocaust. They have strange abilities, such as shooting a blast of radiation at people, telepathy, and are extremely resilient to the elements, including immunity to radiation and being able to run around Anartica butt naked. As for the no genital thing, that was done deliberately so they wouldn't reproduce and take over actual humans.
    • They were much more hostile in the first one, where they'd attack with no provocation. In the second they are a bit more friendly, asking for help telepathically, and you can even team up with them later in the game depending on your alignment.
    • Also, in the original Deus Ex, they weren't engineered from humans. Secret documents you can find in game around the secret base where they are developed/stored indicate that they are actually extreme modifications of bovine stock, simultaneously explaining why they are apparently mindlessly hostile, and what that whole cattle mutilation thing was about. This might have just been a frivolous easter egg, however.
    • In another part of the first one an NPC tells you that they are cloned from the genetic material of the dead aliens who crashed at Roswell. So while they are genetically aliens they are only about as intelligent as monkeys due to being raised in a lab with no education.
  • In Perfect Dark, they are called the Maians. One of them is a main character; his name is Elvis, and he shouts things like "Kiss mah alien butt!" while fighting. By the way, this is basically a serious game.
    • The Maians also conform to the lack of clothing typical of Greys...except for Elvis, who in the last few missions of the game shows up wearing a bizarre red, white, and blue leotard for no adequately explored reason.
  • Greys by the name of Sectoids are a common enemy in the X-COM series, along with an elongated species called Ethereals who go around in large orange cloaks. They use plasma guns and psychic powers in their invasion of Earth. The second game introduces the Aquatoids, who are adapted to life underwater.
    • Apocalypse give us the Hybrids, a race derived from a Human/Sectoid crossbreed that have many features inherited from the Sectoids.
  • Salarians from Mass Effect are based on Greys, while not being exact replicas. They have large, dark eyes, a bulbous head, and a wiry frame. Highly intelligent, but aren't renowned for biotic ability (in fact, so far, no biotic salarian has been seen). They reproduce externally (like fish) so take that as you wish for it to mean about their genitalia.
  • The Kamis in Ryzom.
  • The aliens in The Sims 2 are like this only green. Full aliens aren't player characters (except Pollination Tech #9 Smith in Strangetown), but half aliens can be created if a sim is abducted.
  • In MOTHER, Giygas was a Grey-like alien (with more than a passing resemblance to Mewtwo who was raised by humans, but who felt betrayed by his adoptive parents and sought to conquer Earth. By the time of EarthBound, Giygas had tapped into unimaginable power and become something... far less explicable.
  • UFO: After Blank has the Reticulans, who were responsible for killing the planet prior to the game.
  • One appears as a bonus character in Vigilante 8.
  • Master of Orion: The Psilons in MoO 2 and 3 resemble the Greys, the latter especially.
  • The enemies in Alien Hallway have a variety of body shapes, but the head is always the classic upside-down raindrop with the big eyes.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • In Sluggy Freelance, a quartet of Greys are characters in the "Oceans Unmoving" storyline. From what we know of them, they were grown in test tubes, are obsessed with Anal Probing, and got to Timeless Space via attempting to "probe" a Time Machine with a rake (in a parody of X-COM). They're also a homage to The A-Team, being named Murdock, Face, Hannibal, and B.A.
  • The Cyantian Chronicles has two species that qualify. The Cil, who have to merge with other species to survive in earth's environment and accidentally created the weres that way. And the Rumuah, who created the Cyantians from human and animal DNA but largely went extinct centuries before the anal-probing phenomenon.
  • The Architects in Alien Dice, aside from spooking primitives from some backwater planet they gave galactic society Nanomachines, but left when the AD corp stole a more advanced version for use in their Dice.


Western Animation[edit | hide]


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The Grey image may have originated with a 1960s book illustrating a conjecture of what humans might evolve into in a million years as a technical civilization: enlarged brain, weakened body, senses and lacking animal or sexual traits. The image began showing up in UFO reports not long after it entered the media. Historically, descriptions of UFO aliens always matched the dominant pop-culture images of the time: Little Green Men in the late '40s, big scary monsters in the B-movie '50s, Human Aliens in the '60s when TV aliens were just actors in weird costumes. But by the time the Grey image came along, UFOs had become a pop-culture trope themselves and began feeding back into the media. So The Greys began appearing in productions like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The X-Files, becoming a self-reinforcing trope.
  • Though they weren't the first to report humanoid grey-skinned aliens with large eyes, the alien abduction claims of Betty and Barney Hill in 1961 helped bring the Grey alien image to prominence in popular culture.