Every year, children go missing all around the world. It’s a terrible and heartbreaking occurrence that happens all too often. Thankfully, sometimes the children are returned safely to their family. Other times, sadly, they are never found. This bizarre story strangely fits somewhere in the middle.
Nicholas Barclay grew up in San Antonio, Texas. He was a nice kid growing up, but as he reached his teenage years he started to act out. He would get in fights with his family, with his schoolmates, and with his teachers. In fact, in 1994 he had gotten in big enough trouble that he was due in court to address his behavior.
The night before his day in court, he went out with a few friends to play some basketball. His parents weren’t sure if they should let him go out, but they eventually allowed it. It ended up being a decision they would regret for the rest of their lives. Why? Because it was the last time they ever saw Nicholas. Kind of.
After he never came home, his parents started to worry that maybe he had run away because he didn’t want to go to court the next day. But as the days passed, they feared it was much worse. They filed a report and he was officially a missing child. They passed out fliers and did as much as they could, but neither they nor the authorities were having any luck finding even the slightest clue as to what might have happened.
It’s an impossible tragedy to deal with, but eventually, you do have to move on with your life. The sadness and despair could literally kill you if you let it. So that’s what Nicholas’ parents did. But then, in 1997, a full three years since his disappearance, they got a phone call that truly shocked them. Nicholas had been found!
They couldn’t believe it. Where was he?! Where had he been?! It turns out he was found in Spain of all places! He was found by local authorities there who had heard of Nicholas’ disappearance and recognized him. He was quickly put on a plane and sent back to America.
When they were finally reunited with their son, they were yet again heartbroken when they heard what had happened. Nicholas claimed he was kidnapped and sold into a child sex-trafficking ring. They felt terrible for what he had been through. But they were so happy to have him back.
There was only one problem… he looked different. Specifically, his hair and eyes were a different color. Nicholas said that the men who took him had dyed his hair and actually changed his eye colors through a dangerous medical procedure. His family was happy to believe him. A private investigator by the name of Charlie Parker, however, did not.
He started to investigate and look at pictures of Nicholas then and now. Finally, he spotted something. The ears were all wrong. They were completely different! Parker was convinced this was not Nicholas and this man was lying. But if that was true, then who on Earth was this man?
It turns out he was a 23-year-old man (Nicholas would have been 16 at the time) named Frederic Bourdin. A man known by Interpol as “the Chameleon.” He was an international criminal famous for impersonating missing children! Nicholas’ family couldn’t believe it. They were yet again heartbroken. But at least Bourdin was finally caught.
To this day, no one knows exactly what happened to Nicholas. What a terribly sad and terribly fascinating story. I hope they find him soon!