This question is about the book by Stephen King, not about the movie. In the book, and near the end, it is revealed that "Mr. Gray" was somehow a figment of Jonesy's imagination. However, and maybe because King doesn't specialize in writing SF (though I love his horror stories), the explanation seems confusing to me.

  • To what extent was Mr. Gray a product of Jonesy's imagination? Was there any kind of infection at all? Did he have any "byrus" inside at all? King seems to imply it was a complete hallucination, but in that case, why was the alien "learning" to be human? Why did he have an "imperative to seed", if he didn't exist at all?
  • Were all the "grayboys" a collective hallucination of the main characters and their antagonists from the army?
  • Who were the actual aliens? I think King actually comes close to answering this with the non-sentient byrus (the fungus) and the byrum (the "shit weasels"), but it still doesn't make sense... If the grayboys don't truly exist, who built the spaceship? Or was the spaceship itself an hallucination?

Maybe it just doesn't add up, or maybe there is something I missed in the book :)

  • 1
    You are correct. It doesn't make sense. He should stick to horror. Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 13:24

9 Answers 9


My take on this is that the actual aliens were just the Ripleys, the colonies of parasitic viral spores that matured into shitweasels. Ripleys were telepathic, and drew archetypes and images from the minds of their hosts. Using these archetypes and images, the Ripleys created a telephathic projection recognized by the humans: Mr Gray. He wasn't a hallucination, he was more of a projection of the byrus's will into the character's minds. This is how I reconciled it, anyway.

Wikipedia claims that the fungus, the shitweasels, and the grays were the three separate life stages of the aliens but don't think there is much support for that. The byrus and byrum were definitely different life-stages of the alien. But I think Mr Gray had to both real (he could infect Jonesy's mind) and not-real (he didn't seem to ever truly have an honest-to-goodness physical form separate from the byrus). So to me, Mr Gray is an image that the infectious fungus causes you to see.

That's how I interpreted it. As for what King meant, I don't know that there is actually an answer to this question. I don't know of any sources from King that solve the question. King deliberately keeps things spooky and metaphorical. A good author often leaves questions unanswered and threads untied.

  • 1
    Your reply is mostly what I think as well, but there are some things that just don't add up. Near the end of the book, IIRC Jonesy calls Mr. Gray a case of "interstellar schizophrenia", meaning it was all in his mind, since he was completely immune to the byrus! My reconstruction of events is that the there was a "Gray" projection at the cabin which blew the spores for Jonesy to inhale, but Jonesy was immune (this is stated), so everything after that was completely Jonesy's imagination based on his genre-savvy expectations. No "Mr. Gray" was actually in his mind! (cont'd)
    – Andres F.
    Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 5:09
  • 1
    (continuation from my previous comment) If my previous assumption is right, then this would make most of Dreamcatcher about... Jonesy's self-delusion, which almost destroys the human race (since we agree the byrus and the shitweasels do exist). I find this bizarre, if it is what S.K. intended.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 5:11
  • Relevant passage from the book's epilogue: [Henry tells Jonesy]: "You inhaled the byrus... I have no doubt there was at least that much physical contact... but you were completely immune to it. What you caught was an intention [...] But I think it got in because you believed it was there." It doesn't make much sense to me! :P
    – Andres F.
    Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 5:21
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    One of the very few cases where I think the movie was better than the book. Except for Duddits turning into an alien at the end... that was weird. But, hey, butt-slugs!
    – Omegacron
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 22:24
  • @Omegacron Agreed. The movie was tidier than the book, Duddits nonsense notwithstanding.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 20:57

Just finished re-reading it again. Some definitions, according to my take:

  • Byrus: the redgold fungus, the infection, pretty much the aliens' "true form". It's telepathic, intelligent but "not conscious". At times it "divides" into "different colonies" (thoughts of Mr. Gray when comparing human minds arguing with themselves) but is pretty much of uniform mind and purpose (likely simply to spread) otherwise .

  • Byrum: anytime some quantity of byrus has to develop as an individual with some rudimentary mind of its own. Mostly applied to the shitweasels but Mr. Gray calls himself a byrum at one time (when it's distressed it's identifying more as Mr. Gray and less as byrum)

  • Grayboys: the stereotypical grey alien form seen by Jonesy and standing around the ship before the military wipes them out.

  • Mr. Gray: the idea/meme/imperative of the byrus imparted on Jonesy telepathically by the last greyboy before it died. Manifests as a separate personality. Based on Jonesy's perception of aliens as the typical grays but also as an anagram of his name (Gary, Gray, "by their anagrams shall you know them"- Kurtz)

  • The dreamcatcher boys: Duddits (the dreamcatcher), Pete, Henry, Beaver, Jonesy.

Now to some questions. My take is:

  1. The greyboys were actual physical beings, quite likely their own race once. No way they were hallucinations since several characters (notably in Blue Group which has nothing to do with the dreamcatcher boys say the grays have been messing with us since the 40s. It's basically your stereotypical gray aliens in UFOs with anal probes and what have you.) My basis for assuming they were once their own race comes from something Mr. Gray or Jonesy picking up on Mr. Gray was thinking: "they always came in the ships of the old ones, those relics." It's part of the larger diatribe of "we always lose, we always win". Now 'old ones' isn't capitalized so it leads me to believe the "ships of the old ones" mean the ships of conquered races. Since the byrus is just fungus, what use would it have for ships, let alone how could it build them? But whatever kicked off the spreading of it through space, the pattern is always the same. They show up innocuously diguised as the last race they conquered, they're always seemingly beaten back, but the byrus always takes hold and infects everyone anyway. So there were "grays" once. But then they got infected by the byrus and are just meatsacks for it now. If the byrus had taken over on Earth, some race a few thousand or million years into the future might then have been visited by "the pinks".

  2. The byrum- both grayboys and shitweasels, they're byrus given individual fleshy form. The latter are meant to operate machinery and act as decoys until the infection spreads. And the weasels are (or were supposed to be) surveillance bugs,(they're referred to as 'implants' on several occasions) either covertly providing intel/points of control into pockets of resistance or maybe even covertly infecting more with implants since they can lay eggs. They might've even been a means to elicit willing conversion since they were designed as symbiotic and seemingly beneficial to the host.

  3. Mr Gray- is a split personality of Jonesy, infected not by byrus but the idea of the byrus (and why not, since the byrus is telepathic). But more to it, he is infected along his gift from/connection to Duddits, i.e. the dreamcatcher, which is what ends up making the whole thing possible. It's implied that people who are immune to the byrus may be immune to telepathy as well, or at least the receiving of telepathy, (their minds can probably still be read). There are some immune people in the barn at Gosselins' who explicity do not pick up the telepathic urging of "now now now!" when Henry breaks out, but go with the flow of the mob anyway. So a Jonesy that never met Duddits would've probably gotten off scot free even with a gray exploding right in his face (though he still might've gotten killed by the weasel from McCarthy). But because he was connected to Duddits, he could hold the idea of the byrus, the imperative, without succumbing to the physical effects. This also suggests that telepathic susceptability might be more of a vector for the byrus than any physical factor. Finally it's mentioned in both the book and the movie that Jonesy's accident may have also been a contributing factor, changing his brain enough to allow both his and the Mr. Gray personas to exist within the dreamcatcher. Without it, he may have been subsumed on the spot. There's also some hints that Duddits may have caused the accident, knowing it would come in handy (Jonesy thinking he sees Duddits right before he rushes into oncoming traffic).

  4. Duddits the dreamcatcher- After the four friends rescue him, Duddits binds them together with his telepathy. They each get a bit of it; Pete gets his find anything trick, Beaver and Henry get general telepathy and Jonesy gets the strongest dose. When Duddits dies, the connection is broken and the survivors, Henry and Jonsey are back to being normal. Although it's implied Jonesy's youngest son Noel also has Down's and may also be a new dreamcatcher as when the three of them are physically connected, Henry and Jonesy "see the line" again.

  5. Pennywise- has nothing to do with anything, beyond being an easter egg. When Mr. Gray gets to the Standpipe (or rather, where it was) and sees the plaque dedicted by the Losers' Club, someone has painted "Pennywise lives" in jagged letters. Mr. Gray wonders who the Losers' Club and Pennywise are, things he would be well versed in if he were Pennywise.


Remember that Mr. Gray is mentioned in the first pages of the book, making the schizophrenia thing even more probable... Maybe it was a split personality that was "revealed" by the infection? Maybe even a side effect to Duddits psychic powers? I mean, if Jonesy was immune to the fungus, maybe that physical phenomenom that prevented the fungus made the psychic powers have a psychological side effect on Jonesy, especially since Duddits mentions Mr. Gray in one of their flashbacks. If I'm not mistaking, it's that flashback that mentions Mr. Gray that they gain the psychic powers. I don't remember, but if it is, then I think I'm going to stick with this.

  • 2
    Interesting thought. Also, it's probably irrelevant, but "Robert Gray" is another name of Pennywise the Clown from It, possibly making him the inspiration for the hallucination of "Mr. Gray". Maybe the psychosis was caused by the city of Derry itself -- then again, it's likely just an easter egg.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 0:05

I just finished reading the book a few days ago. It seems to me that there must have been a physical form for the aliens (beside the byrus and "shit weasels") that could use tools, how would a virus/fungus or a limbless worm pilot the space ships? The humanoid alien appears to be a psychic infection of Jonesy's mind by the telepathic byrus which Jonesy interprets as a personality he calls Mr. Gray. But there must have been a large mobile form that humans saw as the Grayboys. Were the black ops gunships just shooting at fungus? As for the UFOs, Kurtz states that the US Military has been studying the alien craft since 1947 and have been adapting the technology for human use. Also Mr Gray refers to "the others" who built the ships that the byrus uses to invade other worlds. If has occurred to me that the "Others" may be the same aliens in "The Tommyknockers" who were space travelers.

  • More.I don't believe that Mr Gray is a different form of Pennywise. Pennywise was" himself" just a telepathic (and telekinetic) projection of the extra dimensional entity known as "It". It's physical form was only that part of the creature which it could extrude into our universe (though there was enough of a connection that when the "Losers Club" killed the "spider" that the rest of the entity died also.
    – Michael C.
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 3:38
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    Michael, everything you say is what inspired my question :) I think something doesn't add up in Stephen King's explanation. As for Pennywise: indeed, I don't think Mr Gray is related to It. If anything, I think Mr Gray picked up on Pennywise's memory in Jonesy's mind, and used it to choose a name.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 14:13

Gray and Pennywise are the same and are most likely a form of low men as outlined in Hearts of Atlantis/Dark Tower books.

My thoughts are that Pennywise (an empathic 'alien/demon') evolves after his seeming demise at the end of It. He becomes a being without form. Perhaps the Gray creates the alien species, becomes them or finds them. Gray himself takes route in the mind of Jonesy due to his strong psychic ability.

In some ways Pennywise becomes the embodiment of Derry itself.

  • This is at odds with everything that's stated in the novel. The Grayboys are explicitly said to be an hallucination; there's zero doubt about that. The only aliens are the byrus and the, ahem, shit-weasels. Pennywise seems like an easter egg in this story, and nothing Mr. Gray -- stated to be a figment of Jonesy's imagination -- says identifies him as Pennywise the Clown. He doesn't prey on children or mention anything about balloons or floating, for example.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 20:53
  • One other note: I agree that Pennywise from It is in some ways the embodiment of Derry itself. If Derry as a city has an "evil" core, then maybe this inherent evil is inside Jonesy's mind and gives shape to the entirely fictional "Mr Gray"; so in some ways the memory of the actual Pennywise (long dead) could have influenced the creation of the fictional Mr Gray. But I wouldn't write an answer out of this because way too speculative :)
    – Andres F.
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 21:01

It could be stated that since all the boys were from Derry, names like Pennywise and Mr. Gray would be legend in that little town like the bogeyman, so when the fungus projects the image of the Alien that appears to Jonesy, it's terrifying nature syncs up in Jonesy's mind with the only thing even remotely as scary, that legendary bogeyman, Mr. Gray. The mind looks for patterns and since the delusion is based upon these it could name itself Mr. Gray, when in fact it's Jonesy doing the naming.

  • Yes, that's my interpretation of Gray/Pennywise as well. But what about the question: who were the real aliens after all? The fungus? And was there even an "infection" at all in Jonesy's case?
    – Andres F.
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 22:14

I think it's because duditts wanted to save the world and they said another time and duditts put in there minds an evil being that could exist in order to save the world when he gave them powers hence the saying scooby doo we got some work to do even in that show they tryed to stop monsters but in the end they where never actually real

It is also weird how he could possibly be it because when they save the girl notice how she's under ground in some kinda tunnel which is where it's victims ended up.. Don't mind the bad gramer i was terrible in English


Well it seems to me that the Shitweasels grew up into mind-altering large shit weasels that could control,via the byrus, the perception of humans into seeing Greys, or anything else, for that matter

  • 4
    Do you have any support for this?
    – Adamant
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 4:30
  • Was Jonesy's infection real at all? (The book hints that no, there was no real infection, but I'm unsure). If the grayboys where an hallucination, who built the spaceships? The shitweasels don't seem like an industrial spacefaring civilization... Or were the spaceships also an hallucination?
    – Andres F.
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 18:43

I think that the reason Jonesy was taken over by the alien was because he was hit by the car meaning we had a near death experience meaning he was in the middle more vulnerable to the supernatural and yes I know they had the powers beforehand but the accident heighten everything. And Duddits picked Jonesy because he was the only one who wasn't going through life problems. Pete had a drinking problem, Beaver had just divorced his wife and henry was thinking about killing himself. Duddits was an alien and he was getting them ready for Mr.Gray. The reason Duddits didn't fight back was because he was sick he knew all he had to do was stick Mr. Gray in the back and inject cancer into him. Those are my thoughts

  • 3
    Do you have any source for this?
    – Mithical
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 8:56
  • How does this answer the question?
    – Andres F.
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 13:49

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