Listening to the Grays

Mac Tonnies - Loving the AlienMac Tonnies has been thinking about aliens – the Grays. What if they represent a sort of tangible psychosomatic feedback from our own distant future?


Let’s talk about aliens. The Grays. You know the ones: black, lidless eyes, atrophied mouths, vestigial nostrils. Their bodies, if human, would be considered emaciated. Anonymous pathologists, notably sources known only to the late UFO investigator Len Stringfield, indicated disproportionately long arms with clawed fingers. By almost all accounts, the Grays are described as genderless.

I’ve never know precisely what to make of these quasi-mythical beings. They are many things: harbingers of a new mythology in keeping with the paranoid climate of the 1980s, when the word ‘Roswell’ began registering on our collective cultural radar. In 1987, Whitley Strieber’s Communion epitomized the image of a prototypical Gray on bookshelves around the world. (Some readers found the image intolerably spooky; others noted an alluring quality to the alleged portrait, a sentiment that kindled hope in the faded promises of the saucer contactees.)

The Grays are also metaphor. Their very appearance is in keeping with the visual vocabulary painfully accumulated in the decades after World War II. With their skeletal physique and bulbous heads, the Grays recall famine victims or the walking dead left in the wake of Nazi Germany. If there’s such a thing as Jung’s collective unconscious, it would appear to have a sardonic sense of humor. Their arrival is less communion than confrontation, shocking in both novelty and complexity .

The mythos offers easy, literalist answers to assuage and appall us in equal measure. We’re told they come from a dying world — perhaps circling Zeta Reticuli — in search of genetic material. They’re desperate, fallible, yet possessed of (and perhaps by) a technology that abides by Clarke’s famous maxim. And yet apparently, and seemingly against the odds, they make mistakes. 1947 wasn’t a good year, if the conventional wisdom regarding Roswell is to be implicitly trusted. Having crashed one of their reconnaissance vehicles in the American Southwest, the Grays set about revealing themselves, albeit reluctantly.

Incredibly, they requested favors and made deals with the United States government in their effort to regain autonomy. Later, having duped us with technological cast-offs, they promptly went about insinuating themselves into our bodies and homes, extracting tissue with vampirish zeal. (Like vampires, the Grays are predominantly nocturnal, and their agenda seems burdened with inordinately erotic overtones. It’s likely no accident that Strieber’s cult classic novel, The Hunger, involved the plight of blood-sucking immortals.)

Witnesses claim the Grays act like members of a hive, each unit as unhesitating and pragmatic as a wasp or ant as they busy themselves around incomprehensible devices or tend to incubators, where supposed human-alien hybrids can be seen drifting in vials of fluid. The unsolicited tours they offer abductees fascinate me, regardless of whether they actually occur as described. Whether they realize it or not, the Grays are intently showing us our worst dystopian nightmares; their future is a world of shuffling monotony and gynecological wizardry worthy of Huxley.

Whoever they once were and wherever they’re from, the Grays have suffered a cataclysmic schism between body and mind. Like the replicants of Blade Runner, they’re largely immune to empathy and look to us with a mixture of fascination and sadness. They’ve lost something pivotal and will stop at nothing to get it back — if, indeed, they remember what they’ve misplaced.

We boldly speculate about the potential of mind-uploading and the promise of designer bodies. We plunge forever deeper in to the resplendent weave of our own genome, shuffling molecules with Frankensteinian resolve. The Grays might be projections from our own future: imaginal constructs so heavily freighted with our own unresolved anxieties that they’ve become effectively palpable.

In our rush to debunk, we ignore their warning at our own peril.


MacMugshot Mac Tonnies is an author/essayist whose futuristic fiction and speculative essays have appeared in many print and online publications. He’s the author of Illumined Black, a collection of science fiction short-stories, and After the Martian Apocalypse (Paraview Pocket Books, 2004). Mac maintains Posthuman Blues, a widely read blog devoted to emerging technologies and paranormal phenomena, and is a member of the Society for Planetary SETI Research. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where he writes, reads and surfs the Net. He is currently at work on a new book.

[Loving the Alien column header image credited to RedMonkeyVirus]

23 thoughts on “Listening to the Grays”

  1. It’s the base placeholder code for “person” that our brain decodes, without any additional descriptor codes, into this image of a colorless, sexless stick figure. Usually reality sends us more layers of detail to tack onto this little chunk of data, but from the aliens (whom I suspect are actually “reality hackers”) we only get this base figure. Apparently, hacking into reality is very difficult, and you can’t get cool leather jackets and sunglasses and roomfuls of guns. Or maybe they don’t care what they look like. They just have this basic body because you need a body in order to sense reality.

  2. Hmmm… what about the greys-as-artificial hypothesis? Apparently, some experiencers witness the greys as being robotic constructs serving a dominant humanoid race…

  3. This is wonderfully insane and reminds me a bit of Arthur C. Clarke’s explanation for the appearance of the Overlords in Childhood’s End.

  4. This antiseptic theater is a existential stage for our clinical demonstration of effective governance whose operations are conducted with efficiency by sociopathic clones whose hive like orientation toward subjects as objects… is a autonomic singularity. Tasking as a one dimensional imperative is a shared and predictable behavior. Demonstrating omniscience, collecting data through eliminating free will by manipulation. The mantra is do as I say. This is the history of your alleged civilization.

  5. The grey as reflective metaphor, externalized in a bare minimum configuration in order for us to be able to hang our perceptions across. Yeah, I could see that. Or, non-humans as a form of energy, able to transmute at a single bound into whatever it wanted to appear as, generally reality-bound by the sub rosa acculturation and eidetic mythic expectations of the percipient, and thus a form of dynamic feedback loop of some kind. Maybe. This would also imply a form of precog or real-time “display” tailored to witness cognitive boundaries, and thus a form of telepathy or subtle pre-programming or engineering of the encounter subject. Most intiguing…

  6. Yes, artificial. But masquarading as [person]. They puncture our reality with something that is not real. We can’t process it, so placeholder codes are sent to handle the error. Think Mad-Libs…it’s not really a flying saucer it’s just a placeholder for [arbitrarily advanced spacecraft.]

  7. List of books for you to read (in order):

    “The Day After Roswell”
    “UFOs and the National Security State”
    “The Threat”
    “The Keepers”
    “An Introduction to Planetary Defense: A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion”
    “2012: Apocalypse”
    “The Gods of Eden”

    If you can still keep your wispy, metaphysical metaphor on “The Greys” after researching this subject properly then good for you.

  8. I once viewed the gray as programed mechanical/organism because they seemed to show no remorse or emotion.Before I considered other species “take” on how they must view human beings.My views that they are no less harmful than humans came when i considered our treatment of other species here on the planet.After all not only do we eat meat,we raise it,care for it,slaughter it in mass,to eat it.A few of us are starting to realize what if another species did this to us with the same no emotion no mercy or concern. we’d be in a fix..There are species on earth who would consume humans as dinner with out a thought to any emotional regret.It is rare but a shark or a wild hungry tiger a bear etc .Humans also abduct animals and tag them and give the inoculations and care and all this is surely done much against the animals permission.Look at how modern medicine has used the rat in science and medical experiments.or the monkey.If our intelligent s has moved us to this,It would make one wonder what a greater intelligent s would do to us and how we should respond.

  9. Sandy you have hit the nail right on the head. Your thoughts are closer to home than you might want to be aware of.

  10. hv thry tht hs nt bn mntnd s f yt. Ths s clld Grys r ll dmn sprts. Thnk bt t. Why wld thr b s mny cttl nd thr nml mtltns? Thy nd th skns nd tss lk w nd sts fr wrk. Thy cnnt b sn by mst f s nrml flks. S thy sttch nd pc bdy tss tgthr wth srgcl prcsn. Thn thy zp th sts vr thm. Bfr y sy smthng slly lk, “dmn sprts cn’t ft nt tght lttl skns” lt m rmnd y f th tm whn th dmns bggd Jss t llw thm t ntr nt th swn hrd nd thn jmpd ff clff. trly blv hv cm p wth vbl rsn fr ths mtltns. Thr r n thr ds tht cm cls. T ch ssgnd dmn hrd thy r t ps s nthr rc s t brng strng dlsn t th hmn rc…t mk s thnk thr s lf n thr plnts r t tll s tht thy crtd s nd r r gds. Thr hs bn dchtmy btwn th Bbl nd wht th Flgst hv bn syng. t wsn

  11. I have often though that a intelegence of another order could develope a robot on a biologicel scale instead of a mechanical scale.
    this could explain cattle muts. For materials & sell structurs. If this is a idea that someone else has looked into and though through I,d like to hear from them.

  12. How can we be sure that said entities do not represent another species on earth that for the most part masks its presence, and has the ability to manipulate the planet’s magnetic fields to create cognitive special effects? It may be distantly related to a common human ancestor. For all we know, homo sapiens sapiens could be a simple hominid compared to this evolutionary thread.

    Agree that it could also represent a hack by an organizing intelligence in a parallel universe that is somewhat limited in how it manifests itself at present. The least likely scenario is present humans using advanced technologies to disrupt frontal lobe activities in certain individuals for unknown ends, though technically possible. If this is the interpretation, then the program would one of the most successful propaganda/reality conditioning efforts ever conducted, far outpacing the collective psychosis of the Nazi period for example. So far, demonstrations of such ‘towering competence’ on the part of governments or any group are few and far between.

  13. Myth no. Mass psychosis no. Get over your fears and do real research. Or end up sounding like the Vatican in Galileo’s time. But I must applaud that a member of SETI acknowledge Grays. Seth Shostak’s head must be spinning while Stanton Friedman is rejoicing.

  14. Sandy and MAGUSWEAVER… you’re absolutely correct….

    I tend to lean toward the Anthropic perspective when it come to life, complex forms of social life, and the emergence of intelligence all form through similar ‘bottle-necks’ or singularities and as such we can make some ‘safe’ assumptions as to what we maybe or may become long into our distant future… and as you said… we do the same thing, it’s just a matter of perspective/perception…

  15. and so do insects; consider the vast number of shepherding, parasitizing, harvesting, and duopolizing species with interdependencies – of which 99% of people other than entomologists are unaware; often with different parasitization relationships depending on the lifecycle – egg, larva, pupa, adult. this is far stranger than what is observed with the Greys – think about it

  16. Ok Mac Tonnies, good peice, but the point isnt to impress us with your extensive vocabulary, I had to look up 3 words in the very first sentence lol at least I did learn something from this I suppose

  17. Know that I was slightly exaggerating before everyone starts commenting on how im an idiot:)

  18. For some comments on Mitchell’s comments, see my blog at The upshot is that Mitchell isn’t saying anything he hasn’t said before — and without corroborating evidence, the story isn’t likely to go anywhere. And while I have no reason to doubt Mitchell’s honesty, it’s perfectly possible — perhaps even probable — that he’s repeating bogus stories that he personally believes but that don’t reflect reality. It’s happened many times in the strange and sordid history of UFO spookdom.

  19. We could also think something more positive although this Your story semms to be very near the truth.

Comments are closed.