The Outside World They Thought Their Missing Son Had Returned, but No One Could Prepare Them for What Actually Happened Published 9 months ago on May 30, 2018 By Monica Huntington Police receive thousands of reports of missing children every year. It’s a nightmare scenario that no parent ever wants to think about. Thankfully, the majority of the kids reported missing are quickly found safe and sound. Unfortunately, there are some tragic cases that gone unresolved haunting the families, investigators and the general public. One such case was that of young Texas boy Nicholas Barclay – that is, until one day, three years later when his family received information that he had been found. His family was initially overjoyed by the news that their son would soon come home, but what started as a miraculous turn of events soon transformed into one of history’s most bizarre and disturbing cases. 1. Vanished Without A Trace Schoolboy Nicholas “Nicky” Barclay was just 13-years-old when he seemingly disappeared without a trace near his San Antonio, Texas house on June 13, 1994. At first, his family and authorities thought there was a reasonable explanation for his disappearance, but the case soon spiraled into a huge mystery. Empathy Insights The world was just as stunned as Barclay’s family when three long years after he had first gone missing it appeared that he had finally been found. Barclay’s family was eager to reunite with the now teenage boy they had thought they’d never see again. However, the truth wasn’t at all what it seemed. 2. What Started As An Average Day… The day that Nicholas Barclay first disappeared was just an average summer day like many others. He had unassumingly been outside playing basketball with friends. When the game ended, Nicholas used a pay phone to call home for a ride. Shutterstock When the line picked up on the other side, it turned out to be Nicholas Barclay’s uncle, Jason. Nicholas’ mother, Beverly Dollarhide, was asleep after a night shift and Jason refused to wake her, instead suggesting that Nicholas walk home. But when the boy didn’t come home that night, the family started to become worried. 3. Behavioral Difficulties Nicholas Barclay was a sweet-looking kid, but his loneliness and desire for attention likely contributed to his reputation as something of a difficult youth. He was often in trouble at school, had a short-fuse temper and allegedly clashed with his mother on a frequent basis. Worldation.com Additionally, due to his behavior, several neighborhood kids were told not to play with Nicholas Barclay. As it became increasingly difficult for Beverly Dollarhide to control her son, she brought her brother, Jason, to live with them to help out. However, no one could have expected the unfathomable events that were to come. 4. Runaway Theories While Nicholas Barclay’s family was concerned by his disappearance, authorities at first thought he’d simply run away on his own as Nicholas had a record of leaving home in the past. Adding to the police’s initial skepticism, Nicholas also had a court hearing scheduled the day after he’d first disappeared, so they assumed he was just trying to avoid it. Worldation.com Before Nicholas went missing, he and his mother also had a heated argument after she found out he’d stolen a pair of sneakers and she was contemplating sending him to a juvenile detention home. Theories therefore also emerged that he’d fled to avoid that as well. However, a new discovery would throw everything into question. 5. A Shocking Observation In his previous attempt to run away, Nicholas Barclay had never been gone from home for more than a day. So, as the days slowly passed, it became clear that something more unsettling was at hand. Shangols – Canalblog Law enforcement officials searched his house and his room and were shocked to discover that Nicholas hadn’t packed any clothes and had left behind all his belongings. The young boy was also only known to have $5 on him, and it further appeared that he had vanished without a trace. But how? 6. A Mysterious Investigation Investigators were by now treating Nicholas Barclay’s disappearance as a missing persons case. As in cases of missing children, time was of the essence. Unfortunately, progress was slow and raging questions remained unanswered as there were virtually no leads. The Apricity The fact that Nicholas only had a few dollars made it unlikely that he’d get very far. The whole town was tense as the possibility of finding him seemed low. The only theory that seemed remotely possible was that he’d hitchhiked – but that meant there was even less hope of finding him. Then, months later, police received an unexpected call that made them jump to action. 7. Three Months Later Nicholas Barclay was last seen wearing purple pants and a pink backpack. Despite his eye-catching outfit, weeks passed and police still received no reports of sightings nor did they find any substantial evidence indicating his whereabouts. YouTube Three months after Nicholas had first gone missing, police received a call from his uncle, Jason, who claimed that he’d seen Nicholas breaking into the family garage but fled when he was spotted. The report was the only lead so far and police pursued it, however it led them to another unexpected turn. 8. Frantic Searches In light of the call from Nicholas Barclay’s uncle, authorities immediately set out to search the parameters of the house and the family’s neighborhood. The investigators left no stone unturned, but again found no sign of Nicholas. San Antonio Express-News The investigations into the uncle’s claim eventually led to yet another dead end. By this point, police were almost certain that Jason hadn’t actually seen his nephew. The newest development made the case even more peculiar, but it was far from reaching the height of its bewildering course. 9. Hope Fades, Until… Everyone tried to remain hopeful. Maybe some clue would appear that would break the spell of so many dead ends and unsolved questions in the mysterious case of missing teen Nicholas Barclay. The months began to pass, though, and leads remained almost nonexistent. Ranker Much to the frustration of the investigators and the despair of Nicholas Barclay’s family, the months turned into years and the investigation progressively slowed down. Just as the family’s hope began to fade, however, the case would take another unbelievable turn. 10. Three Years Later One unassuming day three years after Nicholas had initially vanished, American law enforcement officials got a call all the way from Spain. Much to their disbelief, it seemed that missing Texas teen Nicholas Barclay had FINALLY been located thousands of miles from his home. The Atlantic From what the caller had explained, a boy who appeared to be about 16 (exactly the age Nicholas would have been) was found lost and scared huddled in a phone box in a Spanish village. The boy had now been brought to a youth shelter, but it seemed that he’d been through something unimaginable. 11. A Harrowing Tale Much to the horror of those who had found him, the boy said he had been kidnapped from his childhood neighborhood and had been brought to Europe where he endured abuse by a human trafficking ring before he ultimately escaped and fled to safety. AllThatInteresting_com The teenager’s dreadful tale of his experience shocked the American authorities, but sure enough, using a missing person’s poster for corroboration, they declared him the long-lost schoolboy Nicholas Barclay. The Texas native’s family was notified, but as emotions ran no one was prepared for what would come. 12. Bond For Her Brother The family didn’t have a lot of extra money to spare, so they decided that only one person would go make sure that this individual really was their Nicky. Nicholas Barclay’s sister, Carey Gibson, had never flown before, but she generously received a plane ticket from her work and immediately flew out to Spain. Worldnation.com Barely able to contain the anticipation, Carey found the boy timidly waiting wrapped in a scarf and baseball hat. Without a moment’s hesitation, Carey instantly threw her arms around him and confirmed, to everyone’s relief that he was indeed her brother. Tears of joy were shed, but soon there would be tears of anguish. 13. Heading Home As Carey Gibson sat with her newly-found brother and went over family photos, it became clear that his memory wasn’t entirely intact. But given all he’d been through, it wasn’t so unusual. Soon after confirming this identity, the siblings get a new passport issued in Nicholas’ name and headed home. InTouch Weekly All of Barclay’s family, except Jason, excitedly gathered at the airport and welcomed him back with open arms in a touching long-awaited reunion. Up until then, they’d kept his room just as he’d left it when he disappeared. At first, the returned Nicholas was timid and quiet, but everyone attributed his altered behavior to his dreadful ordeal. The incredible development made headlines around the world but as the family began resettling in, outsiders started noticing that something didn’t seem right. 14. Altered Appearance As a child, Nicholas Barclay had blue eyes, blonde hair and a gap between his front teeth. He also had multiple distinct tattoos on his body, including a ‘J’ on his left shoulder, a cross between his right hand and an ‘L’ and ‘N’ on his outer left ankle. Daily Mirror The boy who had now come back, though, didn’t look at all like the one who had disappeared years ago. While some physical attributes surely change with age, the Nicky who’d returned had darker hair and dark eyes, but there was something else that didn’t add up. 15. Surreal Situation Along with looking different, the boy who’d returned also spoke with what seemed like a French accent. He attributed this to a manner of speech he’d picked up during the years that he’d spent in Europe during which he said his captors forbade him from speaking English. LifeDaily As dubious as that sounded, the change in his eye color was just as baffling. However, the Barclay family didn’t dispute the matter when Nicholas said his eyes and hair color had been chemically altered by his captors to disguise his true identity. Despite the surreal situation, his family undisputedly accepted him. But another life-changing discovery loomed. 16. Media Discrepancies Nicholas slowly adjusted to life after returning home. He was enrolled in high school and seemed to be reacclimating to life with his family. And although he didn’t look or act like the young Nicholas before he went missing, the Barclays family insisted that all the changes could be explained by his trauma. Madman Entertainment The family did all they could to shield their returned son from the media, but he seemed to revel in the attention and easily relayed his experiences in captivity in interviews. It was one TV interview months after his return, however, that would change everything. 17. P.I. Charlie Parker While the investigations into Nicholas’ disappearance had all but stopped during the years he was gone, the event of his apparent discovery once again peaked the interest of the authorities and one particularly keen private investigator named Charlie Parker. CNN In light of the astonishing news that missing child Nicholas Barclay had miraculously been found alive, Parker showed up with a camera crew for an interview at the Barclay home one day. It was during that recording for the TV show Hard Copy that Parker noticed something that gave him chills. 18. An Alarming Observation P.I. Charlie Parker stared at the person being interviewed when he noticed an old photo of Nicholas Barclay from when he was 13. While Parker hadn’t initially dismissed the elaborate kidnapping tale, his astute observation quickly changed his mind. The Guardian As the private investigator stared at the old photo of Nicholas and the current interviewer who said he was Nicholas, he couldn’t help the sinking feeling in his gut when he noticed the difference of one telling feature in particular. 19. The Body Part That Doesn’t Age “Zoom in on his ears,” Charlie Parker told the cameraman. The P.I. was stunned, the ears of this person were nothing like those of the young boy who had disappeared. Parker instantly knew something was off as the ears are the one defining physical feature that doesn’t’ change over time. DIY Magazine This, along with the odd changes in the hair and eye color of this ‘Nicholas’ led the P.I. to get a court order to take his fingerprints and run a DNA test although the individual (and the Barclay family) had refused to do so before. Charlie Parker waited for the results, but what they’d find would shock the world. 20. Not Nicholas Barclay Months had passed since Nicholas Barclay’s family had lovingly welcomed home the boy they thought they’d lost forever when the identity test results returned. Much to everyone’s shock, the results showed that this person was, in fact, NOT Nicholas Barclay. La Dépêche Again the Barclay family was beside themselves as they realized that the person who had been living with them as their son for almost six months was an imposter. As unbelievable as it was, the scientific evidence was there. But who the imposter really was, no one could have guessed. 21. The Imposter Due to the astute investigation by P.I. Charlie Parker, authorities astonishingly revealed that in fact, it wasn’t Nicholas Barclay who had returned home, but a French man named Frederic Bourdin, who had been posing as Nicholas the whole time. Boredom Therapy Nowhere near the age of 16 either, Bourdin 23-years-old at the time – that was seven years older than Nicholas would be. As everyone reeled in the shock the questions whirled about just what Bourdin’s motives were and how on Earth he could have convinced the Barclays that he was their son. 22. How It Came To Be According to his account, Frederic Bourdin had first heard about the missing American teen when he first got the idea of living under the ruse when a security guard mentioned that the two looked similar. Bourdin built up the charade after gathering as much information as he could on the case and adjusting his appearance to seem younger. BBC Incredibly, the imposter ended up living with the Barclays for almost six months before his cover was blown and his scheme was revealed. Still, many people wondered how Nicholas Barclay’s family could have so easily been tricked. Once caught, Frederic Bourdin made a shocking claim about why Barclay’s family so openly accepted him. 23. Slinging Accusations Although by now it was hard to trust the word of Frederic Bourdin after his unbelievable masquerade, not everyone dismissed it when Bourdin claimed that the family had known he wasn’t Nicholas Barclay all along and had a sinister reason to go along with it. Wikipedia Although his version of events wasn’t necessarily reliable, Bourdin accused Nicholas Barclay’s family of knowing one of their kin had killed the boy and they were, therefore, playing along to cover their purported dark secret. However, the family gave a very different reason for their lack of hesitation in believing that it really was Nicky. 24. Muddled Truth The family was appalled at Frederic Bourdin’s accusation and said Bourdin had preposterously preyed off their grief and desperation to manipulate them in his twisted scheme. They insisted that in their distress they so badly wanted to believe it was Nicky, that they did. The Apricity With each new accusation, the truth seemed to be more and more uncertain. But either way, one thing was for sure: the Barclay family now seemed to have lost Nicholas for the second time. Still, P.I. Charlie Parker didn’t think the case was closed and seemed close to pursuing a possible new lead. 25. Foul Play? Inspector Charlie Parker wanted to look into the possibility of foul play in the disappearance of the real Nicholas Barclay. He took it upon himself to further question Nicholas’ family, and in particular, his uncle Jason. Anna Sayce However, just days after Parker began pursuing Jason, he suddenly died from a drug overdose. Police couldn’t locate any remains or additional evidence that pointed to Nicholas Barclay’s fate, but Charlie Parker still hasn’t given up his search. Meanwhile, Frederic Bourdin hasn’t ceased from shocking. 26. Imprisoned For Impersonating After pleading guilty to passport fraud and perjury, Frederic Bourdin was sentenced, in 1998, to six years in jail (more than three time the suggested punishment) due to the harm he’d caused Nicholas Barclay’s family. But what happened once he got out again stunned the world. CrimeFeed.com Once Frederic Bourdin served his jail sentence, he returned to France. Far from stopping his identity stealing ways, he would follow a path that would reveal a disturbing pattern and shed more light on the extraordinary details of his true identity and past. 27. Identity Thief Strikes Again In 2003, Frederic Bourdin assumed YET ANOTHER identity of a missing boy. This time it was 14-year-old Leo Balley who had disappeared about seven years prior. Bourdin was almost 30 at that point, and while DNA testing eventually proved he wasn’t Balley he didn’t even stop there. Jetlaggin.com In 2004, Bourdin posed as Spanish adolescent Ruben Sanchez Espinoza, claiming his mother was killed in an attack in Madrid. Police eventually uncovered the fraud and deported him to France where tried to pass off as 15-year-old Spanish orphan Francisco Hernandez-Fernandez. He was eventually unmasked and sent back to prison, but there was more about his true identity that is so unbelievable it’s unforgettable. 28. Serial Imposter While the cases of Frederic Bourdin illegally stealing the identities of actual missing or orphaned children was truly shocking and bewildering, they weren’t isolated. As it turns out, Frederic Bourdin was a notorious French-born serial imposter who had spent his whole life living under false identities. The Telegraph Known by the nickname, “The Chameleon,” Bourdin had allegedly used 40 fake identities before the Nicholas Barclay case and has used 500 throughout his life. The elaborate con artist was wanted by Interpol before he illegally posed as Barclay and eluded the authorities and the own boy’s family. In the mid-2000s though, he’d shocked everyone with his most dramatic transformation yet. 29. Family Man Much to the surprise of those following his story, the man knowns as The Chameleon married a French woman named Isabelle in 2007 and the couple ended up having five children. With his new role as father and husband, he claimed he would “never impersonate anyone again.” Vice He said his compulsive identity thieving was a desperate attempt to find the “love and affection” that he had been starved of as a child. While Bourdin claimed that his old ways were behind him, he’s still succeeding in making headlines in recent years in a completely new way. 30. Imitation Becomes Inspiration There’s no doubt that Frederic Bourdin’s fantastical life story sounds like it stems from a Hollywood movie. And while much of what he’s claimed needs to be corroborated, the reality of his large-scale serial imitations have spurred riveting accounts of his escapades. The Mirror Facination with Bourdin’s escapade led to the 2010 movie The Chameleon and the 2012 documentary The Imposter about Bourdin’s impersonation of Nicholas Barclay. Sadly, the real Barclay has never been seen or heard from since that fateful day nearly 25 years ago as questions still rage about the unsolved mystery and what the future will hold for The Chameleon, Frederic Bourdin. If you liked this article, don’t’ forget to SHARE it with friends! Sources: The Telegraph, The Guardian, Missing Children Wiki UP NEXT Gunsmoke: Top Facts Behind The Longest-Lived Show on Television... 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