Grey aliens, also referred to as “Alien Greys”, “Greys”, “Grays”, “Roswell Greys”, and “Zeta Reticulans”, are alleged extraterrestrial beings whose existence is promoted in ufological, paranormal, and New Age communities, and who are named for their skin colour. Around half of all reported alien encounters in the United States describe Grey aliens. Such claims vary in every respect including their nature (ETs, extradimensionals, demons, or machines), origins, moral dispositions, intentions, and physical appearances (even varying in their eponymous skin colour). A composite description derived from overlap in claims would have Greys as small-bodied sexless beings with smooth grey-coloured skin, enlarged head and large black eyes.
The origin of the idea of the Grey is commonly associated with the Betty and Barney Hill abduction claim which took place in 1961, although sceptics see precursors in science fiction and earlier paranormal claims. The Grey aliens are also famous from later depictions of the Roswell UFO incident from 1947.
Greys are typically depicted as dark grey-skinned diminutive humanoid beings that possess reduced forms of, or completely lack, external human organs such as noses, ears or sex organs. Their bodies are usually depicted as being elongated, having a small chest, and lacking in muscular definition and visible skeletal structure. Their legs are shorter and jointed differently from what one would expect in a human. Their limbs are often depicted as proportionally different from a human’s; their humerus and thighs are the same lengths as their forearms and shins, respectively.
Greys are depicted as having unusually large heads in proportion to their bodies. They are depicted as having no hair anywhere on the body, including the face, and no noticeable outer earsor noses, but only small openings or orifices for ears and nostrils. They are depicted as having very small mouths, and very large opaque black eyes with no discernible iris or pupil. Sometimes Greys are depicted as having no noticeable nostrils or mouths. Also reports of alleged encounters state their height to be 2–4 ft tall.
In the 1893 article “Man of the Year Million”, H. G. Wells envisaged humanity transformed into a race of grey-skinned beings, stunted and with big heads. (Compare the Morlocks of Wells’s 1895 novel, The Time Machine, who appear greyish-white and large-eyed, but hairy.) In his 1901 book The First Men in the Moon, Wells described Selenites (natives of the Moon) as having grey skin, big heads, large black eyes and wasp-stings. He also briefly describes aliens resembling Greys brought down to Earth as food by the Martian antagonists of his 1898 novel The War of the Worlds.
In 1933, the Swedish novelist Gustav Sandgren, using the pen name Gabriel Linde, published a science-fiction novel called Den okända faran (The Unknown Danger), in which he describes a race of extraterrestrials: “[…] the creatures did not resemble any race of humans. They were short, shorter than the average Japanese, and their heads were big and bald, with strong, square foreheads, and very small noses and mouths, and weak chins. What was most extraordinary about them were the eyes – large, dark, gleaming, with a sharp gaze. They wore clothes made of soft grey fabric, and their limbs seemed to be similar to those of humans.” The novel, aimed at young readers, included illustrations of the imagined aliens.
In 1965 newspaper reports of the Betty and Barney Hill abduction brought Greys to international attention. The alleged abductees, Betty and Barney Hill, claimed that in 1961 alien beings had abducted them and taken them to a saucer-shaped spaceship. (The term “Greys” did not come into usage until many years later, but the alleged beings described by Betty and Barney Hill generally fit many of the common traits of the so-called Greys.) From a star chart reported by Betty Hill, Marjorie Fish, an elementary-school teacher and amateur astronomer, located the home planet of these beings in the Zeta Reticuli star-system (allegedly the fourth planet of one of the stars of the Zeta Reticuli binary system). The Greys therefore sometimes became known as Zeta Reticulans.
The Greys also appear as the (benevolent) aliens in the 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.