Tuesday, May. 26, 2009

Frederic Bourdin

Youth is fleeting for everyone but Frederic Bourdin. Nicknamed "The Chameleon" by the French press, this 35-year-old claims to have taken on as many as 40 false identities over his career. A fatherless child with a distracted mother, Bourdin was an outcast as a youth and begin to impersonate orphans as a way of getting attention. His story was always the same — he only wanted a family and a place to be schooled. In the beginning, his identities were always fictional; Bourdin would spend time creating a name and a back story for each character he assumed. But faced with imprisonment after another one of his stories unraveled in 1997, Bourdin assumed the identity of a missing American boy named Nicholas Barclay.

Despite the fact that he had a heavy French accent and didn't match the boy's appearance — Bourdin's eyes are brown and Barclay's were blue — Barclay's family bought the deception, bringing Bourdin back to the United States, enrolling him in classes and never questioning that he was their long-lost teenager. They discovered the ruse only after an investigator working for the TV show Hard Copy interviewed the boy in preparation for a story on his miraculous reappearance and noticed all the discrepancies.

Bourdin served six years in prison for the deception, only to return to Europe and continue to impersonate orphans. As recently as 2005, the balding 31-year-old was still trying to pass as a teenager. However, after another brief prison sentence, this chameleon now seems content in his own skin. He's married with a daughter and has become a minor Internet celebrity; his video blogs can be found on YouTube.