Thirty-five years ago, Granger Taylor left a note saying he was boarding an alien spaceship for an interstellar journey. He was never seen from again.
Photo courtesy of Grace Anne Young
Today Robert Keller looks out of his office window, thinking about the last time he saw his best friend more than 30 years ago.
"Granger and I were inseparable for years... everywhere he went I was on his heels... Granger and I were like best friends."
On the evening of November 29, 1980, 32-year-old Granger Taylor left his parents a peculiar note before vanishing from their farm in Duncan, a small town on southern Vancouver Island.
The note read:
"Dear Mother and Father,
I have gone away to walk aboard an alien spaceship, 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.
In Taylor's own will he crossed out the word "death" and replaced it with "departure."
According to a local newspaper, the Times Colonist, there was also some sort of map drawn on the back of the note. The significance of it has never been determined.
The same article says Taylor was last seen leaving a local diner, Bob's Grill, around 6:30 PM. Soon after, Taylor vanished.
Police were called and a search ensued. However, neither Taylor nor his bright pink Datsun truck were found.
"One would expect the car at least to be found," Cpl. Mike Demchuk of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) told the local paper. "You just don't get rid of something that large without someone knowing about it."
The note that Taylor left was a surprise to many, but those who knew him were well aware of his ongoing obsession with aliens and space. Just before his disappearance, Taylor's obsession grew to a point where he decided to build a life-size replica spaceship on his parent's farm that he sometimes slept in.
Taylor's friend Robert Keller told VICE, "He did have dreams that they [aliens] were coming to get him."
Granger Ormond Taylor was born on October 7, 1948 on Vancouver Island. His early years were mired in tragedy; when he was a young boy his father drowned in an accident near the family cabin on Horne Lake.
Taylor grew up to be a large man. Stocky and strong, he can be seen throwing friends around a wrestling ring in family photo albums. However, his personality was in complete contrast to his imposing figure. Taylor was shy and quiet in person. Some called him eccentric.
Taylor dropped out of school sometime around Grade 8 and began working at local mechanical shops and become infatuated with machines. It wasn't long before friends and family noticed Taylor's uncanny ability to fix almost anything.
By his mid teens, Taylor had restored a one-cylinder car and overhauled a bulldozer that he used to help neighbours with construction projects and odd jobs. Later he restored an old steam locomotive that he hauled from the bush; it was eventually featured at the BC Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan. One of Taylor's crowning achievements was the restoration of a World War II P-40 Kitty Hawk which was later purchased by a collector for tens of thousands of dollars.
"In my books, he was a genius," Keller, who helped Taylor restore the Kitty Hawk, told VICE.
Keller said that he and Taylor met through a mutual hobby: smoking pot. And one of the many recurring conversations they had while getting high was the topic of space and aliens.
"He [Taylor] took me under his wing," Keller said. Like Taylor, Keller had also found little interest in school and dropped out at a young age. Almost immediately, a bond formed between the two men. For Keller, spending time with Taylor was enjoyable—fun. But Taylor took his work seriously, "I think he was a genius borderlining on insanity," Keller added.
The popularity of UFOs, aliens, and space sky rocketed in mainstream culture during the 1940s and 50s. During WW2 pilots reported seeing large balls of light, later referred to as "foo fighters," in the sky; their existence was unexplainable (later experts would justify these phenomena to electrostatic, electromagnetism and/or the reflection of light, others suggested it was linked to an issue with the pilot's psychological state).
Following the war there were a number of infamous UFO sightings and claims of abduction. One of the most notorious examples was the 1947 claim of an extraterrestrial ship crashing near Roswell, New Mexico (it later came out that it was actually a United States Air Force surveillance balloon that had crashed—or so the government would have you believe). In 1961 a couple, Barney and Betty Hill, claimed they were allegedly abducted by aliens in rural New Hampshire. In 1976 two Iranian F-4 Phantom II pilots reported losing instrumentation and communications abilities while flying over Tehran. The pilots reported "bright lights in the sky" and a UFO was blamed for both the equipment and weapons failure. By the end of the '70s UFO's and aliens had become a cultural phenomenon, reflected in Hollywood with the release of films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars, and Star Trek.
It was during this time Taylor told Keller he was going to build his own spaceship. Keller told VICE Taylor spent the better part of a year welding together a replica, life-size spaceship from spare parts he collected from the local dump.
Douglas Curran, author of the book In Advance of the Landing: Folk Concepts of Outer Space, visited Taylor's spaceship before it disappeared from the family farm. In his book he detailed what the inside of the spaceship looked like:
"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 and thinking and often sleeping there."
The Time Colonist reported that almost a month prior to Taylor vanishing, he told friend Bob Nielson that he was in direct contact with aliens. "He lay there and got mental communications with somebody from another galaxy... He couldn't see them... they were just talking to him and his mind." Nielsen added that most people thought Taylor was just dreaming all this up.
Now it might not surprise you, but according to family members in the months leading up to his disappearance Taylor had doing a lot of acid.
"He was taking acid [a] few times a day during the last few months," Taylor's sister, Grace Anne Young, told VICE.
A letter written from Jaclyn Sandiford (Granger's cousin) to Taylor's mother, Grace Taylor, mentioned the same.
"They [friends of Granger] said Granger did quite a bit of acid through the summer but had no bad trips and did not [experience] any ill effects. They said he frequently spoke at going into outer space and of being in some kind of mental contact with an alien. They say he so matter-of-fact about it that they were too. He told them he would be leaving soon a day or two before he did... They all seem to accept that Granger has done what he said he was going to do—he has a reputation for being honest, and after checking it all out, I think so too," she wrote.
In March of 1986, almost six years after Taylor's disappearance, local forestry workers found a blast site near Mount Prevost, not far from Taylor's parents house.
According to The Montreal Gazette, human bone fragments were found at the scene. "Until further evidence is found, the RCMP is assuming these are Taylor's," reads the article. The article also says Taylor had taken dynamite, used for blasting tree stumps, with him in his truck.
An official coroner's inquest deemed that due to circumstantial evidence found at the blast site, Taylor had been killed. The coroner's office concluded Taylor had been carrying dynamite in his truck and at some point, whether on purpose or by accident, it went off.
Keller said Taylor often stored dynamite in his truck to blow up tree stumps (a common method of disposing of tree stumps at the time). Keller added that Taylor had handled dynamite on countless occasions and knew how to handle these type of explosives.
From the coroner's report all the evidence points towards Taylor perishing in an explosion. However, his reason for disappearing that night has left friends and family guessing about Taylor's true motive.
Taylor's step-sister, Joan Mayo, believes that because Taylor was lonely.
"He had his own way of doing things... he was just different," she told VICE.
Mayo used to have parties that she now wishes she invited Taylor to more often, "When I look back at it now, I feel guilty I didn't invite him more often... I'm sorry that I didn't include him."
But his sister, Grace Anne Young, thinks the acid probably had something to do with Taylor's death. Was it possible that his trips caused him to lose a sense of what was real and what was make-believe?
One of Young's last memories of her brother is him asking to come stay with her and her roommates at their place in Vancouver. She told Taylor she didn't think her roommates would approve of that.
"Maybe if he'd come over... he wouldn't have done this... he wouldn't have blown himself up."
Keller, his long-time friend, doesn't believe Taylor committed suicide.
"Just before we built the spaceship, [Taylor] had said if he wanted to disappear all he would have to do was grow a beard... and move to another country and no one would frickin' know where he was," he said.
Keller attributed Taylor's introverted demeanour as the cause for making him an easy target for bullying. And despite being a large, strong man, Taylor was anything but hostile with people he encountered. In essence, it was the struggle to fit-in that Keller attributes for his disappearance.
Ultimately, the loss of Taylor had a lifelong impact on Keller.
"It was like losing a brother, a father...the thought of not having Granger around was killing me. Granger was my mentor; I am who I am because of that guy."
To this day no one is absolutely certain what happened to Taylor. Rumours circulate that his body was found hanging in a tree, not far from the blast site, while others think he's started a new life in South America.
But there are also those who have resorted to conspiracies on Taylor disappearance. Online UFO and blog sites, such as Mysterious Universe, have an abundance of theories: aliens blew up Taylor's car to make it look like he killed himself; it was a one way trip and he would never be allowed to return to earth; he used the dynamite to blast himself into space; or because of his genius he was recruited by a secret agency or society.
The truth is no one is absolutely sure what happened to Taylor. But if the relativity of space and time actually do exist, maybe Taylor is on his way home, looking for the perfect place to land his spaceship.
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Lede image: Photo courtesy of Grace Anne Young