*Content warning: This post contains mild spoilers for the documentary, The Imposter.
The Imposter is the kind of documentary that will leave you asking ‘why?’ months, even years, after you’ve watched it.
It tells the story of the disappearance of Texas teenager Nicholas Barclay and the French man who tried to take his place.
Nicholas was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed 13-year-old when he disappeared from a basketball court near his home in San Antonio, Texas in 1994.
The teenager had been playing basketball with his friends while his mum slept after completing a night shift at work. When he called the house for a ride home, his older brother refused to help.
Nicholas disappeared that day and his family didn’t hear from him for another three years.
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The family was worried about the teen but he had run away before and the police believed he had left on his own free will. Nicholas had a bit of a troubled past and he was facing time in juvenile detention for stealing from a convenience store.
Then in 1997 the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in Virginia in the United States, received a phone call from a person in Linares, Spain.
An American boy had turned up at a youth shelter, claiming he had escaped a sex trafficking ring. He also declared that he was Nicholas Barclay.
After some back and forth between the two agencies, the boy was positively identified as the missing teen from Texas.
The authorities notified the Barclay family and Nicholas’s sister, Carey, immediately flew to Spain to meet him and confirm that he was her brother.
He was then given an American passport and flown back to the US to be reunited with the rest of the family.
What followed was a touching and tearful reunion… but something wasn’t quite right.
The boy that went missing was a blue-eyed, blonde-haired American teenager and the boy who had turned up had brown eyes and brown hair that he had attempted to dye blonde.
He also had a French accent… and appeared to be much older than 16.
Nicholas told everyone his eyes had changed colour from the chemicals his captors put in them and that his hair had been chemically treated by them too. He also said he had developed the French accent because he lived in Europe for three years.