3 Canadian Mad Scientists- 1: Granger Taylor
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Granger Taylor: The Spaceman of Vancouver Island
The youngest mad scientist on our list is Granger Taylor, whose mysterious disappearance in 1980 remains one of the greatest mysteries of Vancouver Island.
Granger Ormond Taylor was born on October 7, 1948, in the logging and fishing town of Duncan, British Columbia, situated on the southeastern shores of Vancouver Island about halfway between Victoria and Nanaimo. His biological father died when he was an infant, having drowned in northwesterly Horne Lake during a vacation at the family cabin. When he was two years old, Granger’s mother, Grace, married a widower named Jim Taylor, who had children of his own. Granger would spend his earliest years growing up with his seven siblings, including three biological siblings, three stepsiblings, and a half-brother.
From an early age, it became clear to Mr. and Mrs. Taylor that Granger was an unusual child. He was withdrawn and socially awkward, but what he lacked in social skills he more than made up for in an extraordinary aptitude and appetite for mechanics. Granger spent much of his childhood alone in his bedroom, dismantling toy gadgets in an effort to understand their inner workings.
Despite being extremely bright, Granger displayed little interest in his studies and dropped out of school after completing Grade 8. He began working as an apprentice for his neighbour, an auto mechanic, and eagerly absorbed all the knowledge the old tradesman could impart. After a mere year of apprenticeship, Granger decided that he had acquired all the skills necessary for him to strike out on his own. He set up shop on his parents’ forest-side property and began to tinker away on his own unconventional projects, many of which he would go on to sell to collectors or the provincial government for impressive sums of money.
It soon became evident that Granger Taylor had found his calling. At the age of fourteen, he built a single-cylinder automobile, which is now on display at Duncan’s B.C. Forest Discovery Centre. Three years later, he rebuilt an abandoned bulldozer that professional heavy duty mechanics had dismissed as unsalvageable. In his early twenties, he decided to resurrect a derelict steam locomotive he found rusting in the rainforest, with alder trees growing through the chassis. It took Granger two years to restore the train to full working order, whereupon he laid tracks for it through his parents’ garden and began taking neighbourhood children for rides in it, his workshop having become something of a local attraction. It seemed that there was no mechanical mystery too daunting for Granger Taylor; no kinetic conundrum he couldn’t conquer.
On New Years’ Eve, 1969, about half a year after Granger had finished hauling the last piece of his rusted train onto his parents’ property, something strange took place at the Cowichan District Hospital not too from Granger’s home. At about 5:00 in the morning, while tending to patients in the geriatric wing, four nurses working night-shift allegedly saw a silent, brilliantly-lit flying saucer hovering outside the window about three stories off the ground, near the children’s ward. Doreen Kendall, the first nurse to observe the object, claimed to have witnessed two humanoid pilots standing in the craft’s cockpit through its transparent window. The nurses gazed in amazement as the craft drifted behind a grove of trees before zipping away into the night sky like a shooting star.
Later that morning and throughout the following night, citizens from all over Duncan and the surrounding area, including a handful of elementary school teachers and a pilot of the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service, came forward with reports of a similar-looking UFO spotted throughout the region. For months following the incidents, flying saucers and visitors from outer space were the talk of southwestern Vancouver Island.
It seems likely that Granger Taylor was bitten by the same UFO bug that had smitten so many of his fellow Islanders in early 1970s. Not long after he applied the finishing touches to his steam locomotive, he apparently developed an interest in the dynamics of air travel, earning his pilot’s license and beginning restorative work on a scrapped WWII Kittyhawk fighter plane (which he would eventually sell to a private collector for $20,000).
By the late 1970s, Granger had wearied of conventional mechanics, which no longer seemed to challenge him. Instead, he turned his attention to the greatest aeronautical question of all- the propulsion of flying saucers. No engineer on earth had yet been able to conceive an engine which could enable a huge metallic disk to maneuver as tightly, rapidly, and silently through the air as the flying saucers described by UFO witnesses. Granger Taylor decided to tackle this enigma, which had apparently baffled the most brilliant minds of military aerospace, and start on his magnum opus– the construction of a real-life flying saucer.
Granger Taylor began his quest by building a private office the same size and shape as the quintessential UFO. Aided by the children and teenagers who often came to watch him work, he scavenged two radio tower satellite dishes from the local dump and constructed a cylindrical building at the edge of his parents’ garden, which he erected on stilts. After decorating the sides of the metallic structure with a lightning bolt design and a port-like window, he outfitted his UFO with a cast iron wood burning stove, a couch, and a television. Finally, Granger stocked his new study with science fiction novels and pseudoscientific books on UFOs, which were intended to stimulate his ingenuity. His office complete, the mechanical genius hunkered down with his books and his notes and began to consider the question of UFO propulsion.
Throughout 1979 and 1980, Granger Taylor spent much of his time alone in his backyard UFO, sitting in quiet contemplation or pouring through his many books. Then, after many months of deep pondering, something extraordinary happened. One night, while lying in bed, Granger was purportedly contacted by extraterrestrials.
According to Robert Keller- a troubled teenager whom Granger had taken under his wing, and one of the few souls with whom he shared his incredible experience- Granger explained that beings from beyond our solar system had introduced themselves to him telepathically. In the months preceding the incident, the machinist had attempted to contact extraterrestrials via a sort of radio he had devised. Perhaps, he surmised, his willingness to communicate was what prompted the aliens to choose him.
Granger would go on to have several more alleged telepathic conversations with the extraterrestrials. During these incidents, he repeatedly asked the aliens questions about the propulsion source of their saucer-like vehicles, but all they divulged was that the secret had something to do with magnetism.
In October 1980, an elated Granger Taylor confided in Keller and another friend named Bob Nielsen that the aliens had invited him on a trip through the Milky Way Galaxy. His younger friends couldn’t entirely believe Granger’s story, suspecting that the eccentric genius had simply experienced a strange dream or some sort of hallucination, but they couldn’t entirely discount it either; if an extraterrestrial intelligence were to contact anyone on earth, they believed that Granger would undoubtedly be their first choice. Despite their earnest entreaties, Granger refused to take his eager friends with him on his upcoming interstellar voyage, claiming they had too much to leave behind on earth. He disclosed that the aliens planned to pick him up on a rainy night so that the general public wouldn’t see their spaceship.
About a month later, on November 29, 1980, the town of Duncan was rocked by what newspapers dubbed ‘The Storm of the Century’. Thunder, lightning, torrential rain, and gale-force winds descended upon the city, uprooting trees and downing power lines.
At 6:00 that evening, right before the height of the storm, Granger Taylor paid a visit to Bob’s Grill, one of his favourite haunts. The waitress who served him his meal noticed that Granger was clad in his usual attire, consisting of jeans, logging boots, and a brown knitted sweater. He didn’t have a coat with him, and was clearly ill-prepared for the incoming tempest.
At 6:30, 32-year-old Granger Taylor paid his bill, left the diner, and drove off in his 1972 light blue Datsun truck. He was never seen again.
The following day, as the people of Duncan were busy clearing their roads and driveways of fallen trees and windblown debris, Taylor’s parents discovered that their son was missing. Jim Taylor found Granger’s last note to the world taped to his and Grace’s bedroom door. This bizarre document 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.
On the back of the note was a hand-drawn map which some have interpreted as a depiction of Waterloo Mountain, located about fifteen kilometres (10 miles) southwest of the Taylor home.
Jim Taylor and his sons searched high and low for Granger, checking hospitals and driving lonely logging roads in the hope of finding some clue as to the eccentric genius’ whereabouts. In accordance with his note, they looked through his will and found that he had replaced the word “deceased” with “departed” throughout the document. Try as they might, however, they could find no trace of the missing man nor his blue Datsun truck.
Months turned into years, yet the fate of Granger Taylor remained as mysterious as it had been on that fateful morning of November 30, 1980. On June 29, 1983- the date of Granger’s scheduled return from his trip through the cosmos- Granger’s stepbrother, Douglas Taylor, who worked for the Canadian Coast Guard at the time, sat out for half the night on the deck of his patrol boat, scanning the night sky for any sign of Granger and his alien spacecraft. His heart was heavy when he turned in for the night, the promised ship having failed to appear.
In April 1986, six years after Granger’s disappearance, a municipal works crew discovered an artificial crater several meters in diameter off Mount Prevost Road, on the slopes of either Mount Prevost or northeasterly Sicker Mountain (both of which overlook northwestern Duncan). Scattered in the vicinity of the crater were rusted and discoloured fragments of what appeared to have once been a truck. The local Royal Canadian Mounted Police subsequently investigated the scene and discovered two shards of what proved to be human bone not far from the depression. Many Duncan residents, including the police and several members of Granger’s family, believed that these bones constituted the last remains of Granger Taylor. As DNA profiling was in its infancy at the time and unavailable to the Force on Vancouver Island, that suspicion was never definitively confirmed or refuted.
In the wake of the sobering discovery, a number of theories were put forth pertaining to Granger Taylor’s last moments on earth. Many believed that on the night of November 29, 1980, Granger had packed his Datsun full of dynamite, which he used for removing tree stumps, driven into the wilderness, and either deliberately or accidentally blown himself and his vehicle to smithereens.
Some believed that Granger’s inability to solve the mystery of flying saucer propulsion had eaten away at him during the long hours of self-imposed isolation that typified his final months. Unable to cope with his failure, he set out with the intention of taking his own life, concocting the tale of his interstellar voyage in an attempt to ease the pain of the friends and family he would leave behind.
Some of those who knew him best, however, were adamant that Granger Taylor was not suicidal. If he did blow himself up with dynamite, then it must have been accidental. Perhaps he had brought dynamite into the wilderness with the intention of using it in some way to inform the extraterrestrial astronauts of his whereabouts, or to somehow facilitate his journey into outer space. Through some terrible accident, the explosives had detonated prematurely.
Others still, however, including Granger Taylor’s late mother, Grace, and his friend Robert Keller, believe that Granger Taylor was picked up by extraterrestrials on that stormy November night, just like he said he would be. Perhaps he is still hurtling through outer space in an alien spacecraft, exploring the galaxy and studying alien astronautics to his heart’s content. After all, according to Einstein’s theory of relatively, time dilates for objects travelling near the speed of light. Perhaps one day a 35-year-old Granger Taylor will return from his 42-month voyage to find a very different Duncan to the one he left, where phones are cordless, cars drive on their own, and residents still puzzle over the fate of that quirky genius who disappeared on a stormy night so long ago.
- Spaceman (2019), by CBC Docs POV
- The Man Who Went to Space and Disappeared: The Story of Granger Taylor, by Tyler Hooper in the June 30, 2016 issue of VICE
- The Strange Disappearance of Granger Taylor, by Rob Morphy in the October 9, 2012 issue of Mysterious Universe
- Night Shift Nurses and Flying Saucer Men, by Rob Morphy in the September 30, 2011 issue of Mysterious Universe