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What happened to Granger Taylor?

CBC documentary digs into Duncan man’s UFO claims and disappearance

Granger Taylor.

That was the name of a file I created and placed on the desktop of my computer in 2015. Written inside that document were the few details I knew about the 32-year-old Duncan man, who went missing in 1980.

I had hoped to work on a story about this curious figure from the side of my desk — the term journalists use to stave off editors when there’s no definitive timeline for a story, or no new angle to report. The file has remained untouched for the better part of three years.

Taylor’s story had been told and retold, examined and re-examined, long before a file bearing his name ever made it to my desktop.

The Duncan mechanic vanished in 1980, not long after after building a life-sized model of a UFO in the backyard of his family’s farm.

In the afternoon following his disappearance, his stepfather discovered a note tacked to his bedroom door, laying out Taylor’s plans. On the back of the note was a hand-drawn map of Waterloo Mountain, not far from his family’s farm at Somenos Lake:

The note Granger Taylor left his parents before his disappearance.

He hasn’t been seen since.

Taylor had left behind a will, taking the time to make two alterations before embarking on his journey. The word “funeral” was deleted and the word “death” was replaced by “departure.”

In 1986, truck fragments and bones were found at a blast site on Mount Prevost. Though DNA testing was not prevalent at the time, pathology work by the coroner attributed the adult human bones to Taylor.

Fragments of clothing found amid the decayed material were from a shirt owned by Taylor, as confirmed by his mother, who has since died. The fragments matched the fabric of a shirt she had sewn for him not long before he disappeared.

Representatives from the auto division of the RCMP confirmed the truck was his. A report by the B.C. Coroners office officially declared Taylor dead, and with that, the strange tale of Granger Taylor was officially closed.

One of his friends, however, disputes that evidence, arguing that it isn’t conclusive. Others, who never met Taylor, have put forward a variety of theories, including that he relocated to Colombia, or was kidnapped by the U.S. government to work in Area 51, the remote U.S. air base that’s at the centre of alien conspiracy theories.

Spaceman, a new documentary airing on CBC TV next week, digs deeper into Taylor’s life, but ultimately fails to draw any conclusions about his fate.

“We didn’t set out to prove any theories,” said executive producer Jennifer Horvath of Toronto’s Alibi Entertainment, which produced Spaceman.

“The story that is revealed is one of a person who meant a lot to a number of people who never had the opportunity to publicly mourn him. A story like this is obviously a very personal one for family members. They had some concerns, because this is the kind of story that could easily be sensationalized.”

• • •

Granger Taylor, 32, was officially declared dead as of Nov. 30, 1980.

Plenty has been written about Granger Taylor in the years following his 1980 disappearance, and he’s the subject of a healthy amount of online interest.

A series of stories in the Times Colonist by reporter Derek Sidenius covered the nuts and bolts of the tale.

But conspiracy theories from authors, podcasters and theorists from around the world continue unabated, plumbing the deep corners of his story.

Horvath said co-directors John Choi and Nicolina Lanni chose to avoid the many conspiracy theorists who have weighed in on the story.

Theories about Taylor being relocated to Colombia or kidnapped by the U.S. government, or that his abandoned pickup truck, grown over by moss and trees, was discovered in the dense woods of Mount Prevost, were largely left out of the film.

“We have a photo of the truck, but we weren’t able to locate the vehicle,” Horvath said.

The image of an overgrown Datsun that appears to be from the same era as the 1966 truck Taylor was driving the night he vanished is alarming when it appears at the end of Spaceman.

“They are cool stories, but they are not something anyone in the family took seriously,” Horvath added.

A report by the B.C. Coroners Service obtained this past week by the Times Colonist includes confirmation that the vehicle identification number of the truck parts found off Satellite Road near Mount Prevost, where Taylor was reportedly headed on the night of Nov. 29, 1980, matched that of Taylor’s truck.

The cause of death listed on the report was massive injuries due to the consequence of an explosion. The finding was based on circumstantial evidence at the site, according to the report.

Taylor’s friend Robert Keller was 15 in 1980, when Taylor disappeared. Though he was more than twice Keller’s age at the time of his disappearance, Taylor had a profound effect on both Keller and many others in the area.

Big and burly, the Grade 8 dropout was mechanically gifted, and often taught neighbourhood kids the ins and outs of machinery, serving as a mentor. With the neighbourhood kids as helpers, he rebuilt locomotives, bulldozers, cars, trucks, even airplanes.

A Kitty Hawk plane from the Second World War that Taylor restored was on display for years in the Duncan area, before being purchased by a private collector in North Dakota.

Some of Taylor’s restored trains and cars have made their way into the B.C. Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan.

The family’s 21-acre property was a hub of activity during the 1970s as the master mechanic, the oldest of eight children in a blended family, schooled his understudies. “He was very much of the place where he grew up,” Horvath said. “The work that he did as far as finding machinery and restoring it was impressive for somebody who didn’t have a lot of formal education. He could build anything. He was a uniquely talented guy.”

A "spaceship" that Granger Taylor and his friend Robert Keller built from two satellite dishes at the family farm.

Taylor’s parents, Jim and Grace, have since died, and the farm is now owned by Taylor’s sister, Grace Reynolds. It was on this same property that Taylor built the object most often associated with this story — a “spaceship” constructed from two satellite dishes.His interest in space travel was piqued when Star Wars arrived in 1977, and construction of his UFO-like fortress — complete with a wood stove and bed — began soon after.

At first, it was all in fun. But when he built a radio with which he could communicate with aliens, based on the recurring dreams about alien abduction that he was having, questions about his well-being began to circulate.

Keller, now 53, helped Taylor build the spaceship, and maintains that his friend was anything but suicidal. “Granger was the most intelligent, down-to-earth, wise man that I’ve ever met in my life,” said Keller, who, with his family, was among the last to see Taylor alive.

He maintains he would have known if Taylor were intending to kill himself. “He wasn’t a nut. He was a very, very intelligent guy who carried on with his life normally. But after you say ‘spaceman,’ then all of a sudden he becomes a nut.”

Granger Taylor with his parents, Jim and Grace.

The back door of the Taylor family home was left unlocked for years, in the event he should walk through it at some point.

Shy, with the tendency to be socially awkward, Taylor could be classified as eccentric by some, but that didn’t mean he was unhappy.

The common-sense theory that ignores the space-travel hypothesis, however, points to the conclusion that he killed himself.

Taylor’s mental health had reportedly declined in the months leading to his disappearance, and according to a Vice magazine article written in 2016, he was taking LSD regularly before he vanished.

It’s for that reason that some members of the Taylor family who participated in the documentary have given up hope he will ever be found. “Let’s set the record — Granger’s gone. He’s dead,” half-brother Joseph Taylor says in the film.

“He did some amazing things, Granger had some challenges. He couldn’t deal with those challenges. He took his life.”

Not knowing either way is a difficult burden for some to carry, which is why the Taylor family decided not to have a funeral, even after he was officially declared dead by the coroner in 1986.

The date of his death was listed as Nov. 30, 1980. “For a number of people we spoke to, this was a chance to go through their experience and say goodbye in a very final way,” Horvath said.

Without further data, however, many believe he could still be alive.

Taylor made a stop at Bob’s Grill near Duncan before journeying to Mount Prevost the stormy night of his disappearance, and neighbours reported hearing a loud boom around the time he would have arrived at his destination.

Granger Taylor with an antique-style car he worked on at his family farm near Duncan.

Was it the sound of a UFO leaving Earth’s atmosphere, or the sound of a pickup truck being blown apart by dynamite?

Duncan was besieged by a historically bad storm that night, Keller said, so it could have easily been thunder.

Taylor had told Keller that the aliens would likely arrive when the weather was bad, so they could travel under cover.

Taylor had experience with explosives, and the fact he reportedly had dynamite in his possession at the time of his disappearance shouldn’t factor into the equation, Keller said.

“He was too smart to have an accident up on the mountain. There’s no way. He knew how to handle explosives — he was basically an expert — so when it came to safety, that was his number-one priority. It doesn’t work with me. He wouldn’t have had an accident, and he wouldn’t have done it on purpose.”

Horvath said that despite their best efforts, they were unable to locate the blast site — listed as 600 feet in diameter on the coroner’s report — during the filming of Spaceman.

Keller also has questions about the veracity of the evidence. “The police said it was a blue truck, but his truck was Pepto Bismol pink — I helped him paint it with my buddy Darren,” he said.

“What they found on the mountain was not Granger’s truck. They have no actual idea if it was Granger’s bones or not.”

The ongoing fascination with Taylor is understandable. If there’s anyone who could survive an interstellar journey and still be alive today, the quick-thinking mechanic is a better candidate than most.

Whether he went on the journey into space, or died soon after, Keller believes he will never see his friend again. And that is a saddening, sobering thought, he admitted.

Not knowing if he’s dead is no better than knowing.

“Is it possible that he killed himself?” Keller asked, bringing himself to tears with his answer. “It’s really hard to accept that. I know that’s a possibility, but there’s all kinds of possibilities.”

Even though the filmmakers spent weeks researching the story and shooting interviews for Spaceman, Horvath said the narrative was left open-ended.

No one has absolute knowledge of the situation, she said.

“We couldn’t close the book on it definitively.”

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• Spaceman can be viewed at CBC Docs POV starting at noon on Feb. 8. It also airs on the CBC network at 9 p.m. that same evening.