The Strange Disappearance of Granger Taylor
On the night of November 29, 1980, gale force winds tore through the central portion of Vancouver Island, knocking out the electricity and sending locals scurrying for shelter. In the midst of this violent storm a shy and uncannily bright young man posted a short note on his father’s bedroom door and walked out of his parents’ home leaving all of his worldly possessions behind, including $10,000. He climbed into his 1972, pale blue Datsun pick-up, drove past the flying saucer replica he had built in his backyard and was never heard from again.
This series of events, though disconcerting, are not in and of themselves particularly remarkable. What makes this case worthy of note over 30-years after the fact is the content of the letter that the man in question, Granger Taylor, left for his parent’s to read:
“Dear Mother and Father, I have gone away to walk aboard an alien ship as recurring dreams assured a 42 month interstellar voyage to explore the vast universe, then return. I am leaving behind all my possessions to you as I will no longer require the use of any. Please use the instructions in my will as a guide to help. Love Granger.”
On the opposite side of the hand scrawled letter was a contour map of Waterloo Mountain, which was located some 20-miles west of the Taylor’s property. What relation the map or the mountain may or may not have had with Taylor’s disappearance is just one of the many enigmas associated with this bizarre case.
But if we are to make an attempt to understand what circumstances led to Taylor (perhaps literally) falling off the face of the Earth, then we first need to go back to when this reclusive man was hailed as…
A BOY PRODIGY:
Born on October 7, 1948, Taylor hailed from Duncan, Vancouver Island — a logging and fishing town, which is nestled in the Canadian province of British Columbia — and had what his friends and neighbors hailed as an astonishing aptitude for constructing and repairing all manner of mechanical devices. One of Taylor’s oldest friends, Bob Nielson, even went so far as to say: “I guess you could call him an eccentric genius.”
Taylor — who lived on his mother and stepfather’s wooded Somenos Lake property until the day he vanished — was an 8th Grade dropout, but despite this lack of education, he was considered by all who knew him to be a self-taught mechanical wizard.
After leaving school he managed to secure his first job with a neighbor as a mechanic’s assistant, but following just one year of apprenticeship Taylor struck out on his own and would remain self employed thereafter; working as a welder, a mechanic and repairing heavy machinery.
Taylor’s list of accomplishments is also extraordinarily impressive. At the tender age of 14-years he built a single cylinder automobile, which was promptly put on exhibit the Duncan Forest Museum; and at 17 he managed to rebuild a bulldozer that more seasoned mechanics had long since given up for dead. These already remarkable achievements would, in the long run, be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
In 1969, while still in his early twenties, Taylor painstakingly plowed a trail through over half a mile of dense forest in order to get to the ramshackle remains of a locomotive that had been abandoned during the Great Depression and left to rot. What was left of the train was in a sorry state; its trucks and drive shafts had been scavenged back in WWII and a tangle of trees had grown through its rusted frame.
Taylor extricated the engine from the almost impenetrable undergrowth and managed to drag it back to his parent’s residence; a site which had gained the affectionate title of “Sleepy Hollow Museum,” due in no small part to the fact that the overgrown yard was riddled with old tractors, a bulldozer, train parts dilapidated cars and steam pots from donkey engines, most of which Taylor had discovered while exploring the Cowichan Valley scrub.
In less than 2-years — with nothing more than his intellect, moxie, tools, freight car trucks and power transmission components at his disposal — Taylor managed to restore the locomotive to its former glory. In 1973, the Province of British Columbia purchased the steam engine and sent it out to tour with the Museum Train before putting it on display at the B.C. Forest Discovery Center.
It wasn’t long before the introspective and unassuming Taylor transformed from an awkward boy into a 6-foot 3-inch, 240 lbs. bear of a man who his friends took to calling: “Gentle Ben.” Although his body changed, Taylor’s mind remained focused on understanding the nature of motion technology and his next passion would be for machines that were capable of flight.
Taylor got his pilot’s license and bought a vintage Kitty Hawk warplane, which he restored. For two years the airplane was displayed outside a store on the Island Highway until it was sold to a restorer of vintage aircraft from Manitoba in 1981 for $20,000. Taylor’s parents, Jim and Grace, put the money in Granger’s bank account with the other $10,000 he had left untouched before his inexplicable departure.
While planes, trains and automobiles clearly intrigued Taylor when he was young, it wasn’t long before he was able to understand their functions and become a master of their assembly… it was then that he evidently became bored.
Always seeking something new to test his vast intellect and mechanical prowess, the now respected craftsman turned his attention to a new — and for many incomprehensible — challenge; the seemingly unsolvable question of how UFOs could perform the aerial feats that so many eyewitnesses have claimed to have seen and (even more importantly) what it was that powered their ostensibly interstellar journeys.
To this end, Taylor built himself a quasi-futuristic sanctuary beneath the lofty fir trees not far from the house he shared with his parents on the marshes of Somenos Lake; a place which would come to be known as…
GRANGER’S FLYING SAUCER:
During the later portion of the 1970’s, according to his stepfather, Taylor — using his colossal industrial acumen — spent over half a year constructing and welding a “life-sized” replica of a flying saucer out of spare parts he’d found.
In his 1985 book “In Advance of the Landing: Folk Concepts of Outer Space,” Douglas Curran described the fantastic domicile: “He [Taylor] built his spaceship out of two satellite receiving dishes and outfitted it with a television, a couch, and a wood-burning stove. He became obsessed with finding out how flying saucers were powered, spending hours sitting in the ship thinking and often sleeping there.”
In an article published in the March 18, 1985, edition of Times-Colonist, titled: “Is Vanished Son Adrift in Space?” journalist Derek Sedenius described the then decrepit state of the once cherished haven:
“The silver spaceship sits on metal pillars under the trees at Jim and Grace Taylor’s farm near Duncan. Its aluminium-plate ramp door is ajar and broken — the Taylors suspect from children playing — but inside, the large old sofa, pot-bellied stove, and plywood sleeping ledge are much the way their son, Granger, left them.”
The furnished Saucer swiftly became Taylor’s “home-away-from-home” and once he got settled into his new refuge, he embarked on what would be his first meticulous stages of…
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
As he had no access to the “real thing,” Taylor began his research into the UFO phenomenon by collecting all of the books that he could get his hands on, which was an easy enough task in the 1970’s.
He then entrenched himself inside his welded steel shelter and began the arduous task of trying to understand the machinations of UFOs based solely on eyewitness accounts and pseudo-scientific hypotheses that the authors of these books put forward regarding the unusual aircraft.
In fact, years after their son’s disappearance, the Taylors’ still held onto a box overflowing with Taylor’s books on the subject of UFOs and unknown energy sources; such as Frank Edward’s, “Flying Saucers — Here and Now,” “From Outer Space,” “Black Holes” and “What We Really Know about Flying Saucers.”
It wasn’t long before Taylor’s new hobby transformed into a full-fledged obsession. When he went out socially the topic of how spaceships were powered was never far from “Gentle Ben’s” mind and his friends conceded that he never hesitated to bring the subject up.
Like happens with many highly gifted people, Taylor’s fascination with this issue may have eventually waned as other subjects of interest cropped up, but it seems as if fate — or perhaps something slightly more tangible, though no less ethereal — had something else in mind. Taylor confided to his friend Nielsen that during one of his periods of self-imposed isolation aboard his saucer he received what can only be referred to as…
A MESSAGE FROM SPACE
While lying on the makeshift cot in his metallic refuge, Taylor claimed to have come into telepathic contact with an extraterrestrial entity who hailed from beyond the Milky Way.
This, for anyone who has studied ufological (particularly contactee) lore, is considered to be a common, though exceedingly difficult to prove, occurrence between human beings and alien explorers. Nielsen would later describe to reporters what his old friend had disclosed to him a mere month before he vanished:
“He said it happened when he was in bed. He lay there and got mental communications with somebody from another galaxy… He couldn’t see them. I said they can’t just be mental, but he said it was like they were talking just to him and to his mind. He was asking questions about the means for powering their crafts. The only thing they would tell him was it was magnetic.”
A few days following this first — admittedly bizarre — revelation, an elated Taylor informed Nielsen that the disembodied voice had once again visited him in his saucer and this time the alien being invited him to go on a “trip through the solar system.”
Taylor excitedly explained that he would not be informed until the end of the month as to where he would be picked up, but when the location of the rendezvous was revealed to Taylor he evidently chose (or was instructed) not to divulge this to his parents of friends.
Despite the fact that his friends had no idea when or where his alleged date with destiny would take place, Taylor made no pretense at concealing his exhilaration about the coming journey and all that he was going to learn about the alien’s technology during his “42 month interstellar voyage.” According to Nielsen, Taylor was “thrilled” by the prospect of his approaching interplanetary odyssey. Taylor’s friends — most of who suspected that this overreaction to a weird nightmare was just another manifestation of Taylor’s eccentricity — humored him. According to Nielsen:
“Everyone thought the trip was just a dream, but nobody entirely discounted Granger’s stories… He was such an unusual sort of guy.”
Nevertheless, Sedenius reported that just a week before Taylor’s enigmatic exodus, he took a bunch of his buddies out for a ruckus night on the town for what was intended to be a “sort of a going-away party.”
On Friday, November 28, the evening before what would be considered by many to be Taylor’s last night on Earth (one way or another) the young man entered his stepfather Jim’s bedroom and had a long discussion with him. He expressed his affection and gratitude for all the man had done for him over the years. Jim had no idea that this would be his last conversation he would ever have with his stepson.
Taylor’s mother, Grace, was not on hand to speak with him as she was in Hawaii taking the first vacation she’d had in years. She would forever regret not being home that turbulent November evening.
Without the knowledge of his parents or friends, Taylor prepared two wills with detailed instructions as to how his parents should distribute his possessions. Interestingly, the word “deceased” was scratched out on the wills only to be replaced by the word “departed.”
THE LAST CONTACT
At about 6:00 p.m., on that fateful Saturday eve that would change the lives of so many in the town of Duncan, Taylor entered Bob’s Grill for dinner. Taylor’s appearance raised no eyebrows as he had been a regular at the curbside diner for years.
The last person to come forward and admit to seeing Taylor was a woman who was working in the Grill’s kitchen by the name of Linda Baron. Baron would later tell authorities that she had seen him enter and dine by himself, but was unable to recall if anyone had tried to engage Taylor in conversation. According to Sedenius, Baron did remember what the solitary genius was wearing, especially considering that as bright as everyone knew he was, he was clearly not prepared for the oncoming storm:
“She remembered he wore a brown knitted sweater zipped up front, a black T-shirt (he was never without), jeans and logger boots. He didn’t have his winter coat. Strangely, [Jim] Taylor discovered the coat a couple of days later inside the sturdy doghouse that Granger built for his huge Newfoundland dog, Lady.”
Baron then testified that Taylor paid his bill and left the restaurant at about 6:30 p.m., just as the storm was starting to tear through Duncan and the neighboring cities. It would be the last that known human eyes would ever fall on the extraordinary, burly 32 year old machinist.
That same night hurricane force winds were reported in Port Alberni and power lines were downed throughout Duncan and the surrounding area, swathing the entire the region in impenetrable darkness. By dawn the next day the citizens of Duncan were picking up the debris left behind by the storm and they were also picking up a rumor that was swiftly spreading through the town — that Granger Taylor had vanished off the face of the Earth.
The RCMP responded immediately, but after what Corporal Mike Demchuk described as “exhaustive checks” of hospital, passport, employment, and vehicle records not a single clue as to Taylor’s whereabouts could be discovered. According to Cpl. Demchuk: “Granger’s name has been put on the national police computer system. And the motor vehicle branch in Victoria has been alerted in case Granger’s driver’s license, which expires this October, is renewed.”
After Taylor had been gone for more than 4-years, Demchuk admitted that what had perplexed him most regarding this mystifying case was the fact that the 1972 Datsun pick-up truck that Taylor had ostensibly used to travel to his “engagement” was still missing. Demchuk stated:
“One would expect the car at least to be found. You just don’t get rid of something that large without someone knowing about it.”
Knowing that it may well hold the key to his disappearance, the Taylors would, throughout the 1980s, occasionally take out newspaper ads offering a $100 reward for anyone finding their son’s missing vehicle. They never received any responses, but the truck’s registration expired in 1981, convincing many RCMP investigators that it was likely no longer on the road.
According to Time-Life books’ 1992, “Mysteries if the Unknown, Alien Encounters,” the remnants of Taylor’s truck (described inaccurately as being “pink”) were found on an unnamed mountain sometime in 1986:
“Six years later, the truck was found on a mountain near Duncan, apparently blown to bits in what must have been a massive explosion. But Taylor’s body was never found.”
The Wikipedia entry on Mount Sicker, a relatively small mountain not far from Duncan, includes a short mention of the Taylor case that seems to, at least in part, corroborate some of the Time-Life books’ assertion:
“Mount Sicker may contain the answer to a local UFO mystery. In late November 1980, Granger Taylor, an unconventional genius and UFO fanatic, left his family a note saying he was going to travel on an ‘alien ship’ for ‘a 42 month interstellar voyage’ and he and his pickup truck were never seen again. Many years later, local newspapers reported that a logger on Mount Sicker spotted a crater in the ground and metal debris embedded in a tree. It is believed that Granger was carrying explosives in his truck at the time of his disappearance.”
It seems unclear, at least without confirmation from the RCMP, if the vehicle debris allegedly found on Mount Slicker (it it really was from an automobile) has anything whatsoever to do with Taylor’s disappearance. But even assuming it does, the lack of any body on the scene just adds to the inscrutability of this case.
THE COWICHAN CONNECTION:
It’s worth noting briefly that the region that Taylor hailed from was no stranger to the UFO mystery. In fact, one of the most intriguing and best documented flaps in UFO history occurred in the area just 10-years before.
The events began at 11:59 pm. on New Year’s Eve, 1969, just miles from the Taylor home at the Cowichan District Hospital.
A nurse by the name of Doreen Kendall was tending to her patients when she and three other nurses saw a “Saturn shaped” UFO with two humanoid occupants hovering outside the window. Thus began an astonishing spate of sightings, which I chronicled in my article: “Night Shift Nurses and the Flying Saucer Men.”
It would be hard to believe that a presumably extraterrestrial encounter of this magnitude happening so close to home would not have a lasting effect on the youngster’s curiosity regarding UFOs and their occupants. I have very little doubt that these events planted a seed within Taylor that was destined to germinate in some form or another at some point down the line.
It’s even a remote possibility that the same faceless saucer pilots seen by Kendall in 1969, may have taken a liking to the region and become intrigued by the studious human who was so eager to learn about their technology. But assuming he was not picked up by extraplantary vessel, then the big question that remains is…
WHERE IS GRANGER TAYLOR?
There is, of course, no way to come to any definitive conclusion regarding the fate of Granger Taylor with the meager evidence at hand… and if someone out there has more information please come forward with it! Most of the hard data I’ve been able to dig up surrounding this case comes from newspaper clippings and UFO books from the 1980s and early 90s, which hardly constitutes concrete proof of anything other than a good campfire story!
Now we need to take a look at some of the more prosiac possible explanations for his disappearance, and the first one that comes to mind is that Taylor, for reasons we can only surmise, decided to take his own life, and in his final days perpetuated a bizarre and (for his parents, at least) unnecessarily cruel hoax intended to leave those he left behind perplexed and maybe just a bit comforted by the fact that he was flitting around the cosmos with actual extraterrestrials.
Lending credibility to this supposition is the fact that someone planning on being gone for only three-and-a-half years — while they might be likely to get rid of a few odds and ends — would almost certainly not give away all their possessions. But if that proves to be the case then where is his body? Why was it not found in the wreckage on Mount Slicker — if, indeed, they genuinely were the remains of Taylor’s car?
Did Taylor decide that he wanted to get away from it all and start over in a new place? If that was so, then why not just move? In 1980, $10,000 in the bank would not be a bad way to begin a new chapter in life and he surely could have found a job anywhere he decided to go as a machinist or mechanic. What would have prevented him from picking up his roots and transposing them elsewhere?
Even if he honestly felt that his only way out was to fake his own death, then why would he leave all of his money behind and concoct such a peculiar story about the telepathic alien and a 42 month journey? It’s almost certain that this odd tale (if it were nothing but a made-up story) would only serve to humiliate his beloved parents in their small community. It simply doesn’t add up.
Neither his friends, family nor law enforcement officials have ever made any mention of any drug or alcohol abuse, so that would seem to be out, but is it possible that Taylor — as happens to some geniuses — lost his grip on reality while ensconced in his handcrafted saucer? Perhaps he was suffering from an undiagnosed metal illness that finally manifested itself in the form of a telepathic E.T.
Maybe he destroyed his truck and slipped into the forest on that stormy, black night fully expecting his alien tour guide to arrive, only to succumb to the brutal elements while waiting in vain for the celestial lights to shine down on him. There are lots of remote areas on Vancouver Island and Taylor’s bones might be just one errant hiker away from being exposed. Of course, the other possibility is that he was simply…
PICKED UP BY A UFO
While it’s easy to surmise that Granger Taylor was either suffering from some sort of mental breakdown or merely trying to escape his life, there is the chance that he was of sound mind and he had a very peculiar experience; one which he decided to embraced rather than run away from.
Is it just remotely possible that Taylor actually did have a run-in with a benevolent alien that took a shine to his natural curiosity and invited the human to join him on a voyage to the stars the likes of which, perhaps, has only been enjoyed by Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind” alter ego, Roy Neary? The simple fact that Taylor left his coat behind on such an inclement evening would indicate that he truly believed that wherever he was going, he would not need to bundle up.
Dr. Max Edwards, a linguist and former professor at the University of Victoria, believed that this was the case. As did Duncan resident and publisher, John Magor, who said: “There have been reported cases of aliens taking humans on rides in saucers in other parts of the world; why not here, then?”
Whatever happened to Granger Taylor during that horrific tempest back in the autumn of 1980, remains a mystery to this day, but there can be no doubt that this event was a tragedy for those who loved Granger Taylor, particularly his mother who never got to say goodbye. For years the Taylors’ left their son’s bedroom untouched and the plaques and trophies he had accrued over the years were never removed from the cupboard door.
The only thing that we know for a fact is that on the evening of November 29, 1980, Granger Taylor vanished, seemingly without a trace. On May 29, 1984, Granger Taylor’s 42 month expedition was supposed to come to an end and his parents — who had kept the backdoor unlocked for nearly 4-years — were eagerly awaiting their son’s promised return… he never came home.
In the final analysis, the case of Granger Taylor is an intriguing mystery from the backwaters of ufology, but perhaps the whole muddled story can best be summed up in the words of Jim Taylor:
“I can hardly believe Granger’s off in a spaceship, but if there is a flying object out there, he’s the one to find it.”
Let’s hope that he did just that… and that somewhere out in the inky blackness an Earthling by the name of Taylor Granger is having the experience of a lifetime soaring out amongst the stars… even if he is a little late getting home.