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You’re driving alone down a dirt road, and you’re falling asleep at the wheel. Suddenly, a burst of light streaks across the sky — there’s a floating, flat shape in the air right in front of your truck, and though it soared quickly into view, it seems to have stopped completely. A beam of light shoots out from underneath the craft, and a little man with huge eyes, an enormous head, and a tiny body appears in the middle of the road. He doesn’t want to hurt you; he just wants to stick a probe in your nasal cavity.

Why does this alien encounter story feel predictable and familiar? If humans have never encountered extraterrestrial life, then how did we decide across cultures that aliens have an instantly recognizable shape? If you visit the UFO Festival in Roswell, New Mexico, it becomes immediately clear that humans have decided on a visual shorthand for alien life: the flying saucers, the little green men with huge black eyes, three fingers, and medical probes. But where did these cliches come from?

In the “believer” community, common threads that connect the stories of “close encounters” include certain types of aliens, spacecraft, and the phenomenon of lost or frozen time. Inverse reviewed first-hand accounts of encounters with alien life to find commonalities, and these were the four most popular descriptors we came across.

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Category: Weird Desk