You go into your teenage son’s room to wake him up for school, and he’s not there. What’s worse, his bed is still made. What follows is every parent’s nightmare: calling the police, searching, and the sinking feeling you get when something maybe horrifying has happened. It’s a feeling one family knows all too well.

When a 15-year-old boy disappeared from his hometown without a trace in 2016, his family was left in agony over the mystery and loss. Their search efforts felt futile until the police resorted to the one tool that broke the whole case wide open…

High school can be the most trying and formative years of a person’s life. The pressure from peers, family, and teachers mold you into the person you will become. Fifteen-year-old Aubrey Carrol was facing all of this and more.

Aubrey’s parents had recently gone through a divorce that resulted in Aubrey moving to Spalding County, a town about an hour away from his childhood home. Aubrey started a new school and was soon making friends. It seemed he was settling in.

But custody battles kept things turbulent, and before the school year was over, Aubrey was forced to move back in with his father, Michael, in Jones County. To keep a little consistency in Aubrey’s life, it was agreed that he would finish out the school year at Spalding.

This meant that every day Michael drove over an hour so that Aubrey could catch the bus for school. With all this extra travel, Michael had to be strict about how much social time he allowed his son. This proved difficult for Aubrey as he was very socially spirited.

Aubrey was feeling unhappy and restless with these new limitations. In mid-May he acted out in what Michael reported was just a minor incident. Nonetheless, he found himself in trouble with the authorities. This trouble, it turned out, was only foreshadowing the big ordeal his family would encounter just days later.

On the morning of May 24th, 2016, Michael dropped Aubrey off at the bus stop as usual. This would be that last time he saw his son because later that afternoon when Aubrey’s stepmother, Leah, arrived to pick him up after school, there was no sign of him.

Aubrey was supposed to take exams that day, which he had apparently completed. It was clear that he attended school, but after that, the trail went cold. Even his friends claimed they had no idea of his whereabouts.

Michael reported his son missing to the police. He refrained from relaying Aubrey’s disappearance to his mother in Spalding because he was sure it was just a classic teenage runaway case. Michael was certain Aubrey would return home soon enough.

As days turned to weeks, there was still no sign or trace of Aubrey anywhere. Michael’s concerns grew to fears and Aubrey’s mother, Danielle, was beginning to get suspicious, and finally, Michael had to come clean.

As January approached, there were still no leads on locating the boy. Aubrey’s birthday came and went and his family was imagining the worst. In a desperate and more aggressive pursuit, the police issued a missing person poster with a $5,000 reward in hopes that would coax out more information.

Despite the tireless efforts of Aubrey’s family and the police, it seemed that Aubrey had fallen off the face of the earth. His family never stopped searching, but everything felt grim as the days continued to pass. Then, on April 10th, 2018, almost two years after his disappearance, the police made a breakthrough.

A Facebook profile had been found with pictures of a young man whose resemblance to Aubrey was uncanny. The Facebook profile was under a different name, but the age of the young man pictured would be about Aubrey’s current age.

The police showed the Facebook profile to Aubrey’s family and they confirmed without a doubt, that was him! Aubrey was alive and well, and it seemed he had lived quite the adventurous life in the last 2 years.

Investigators tracked Aubrey to a group of hippie travelers. He’d spent the last couple of years traveling all over the West Coast and Midwest working odd jobs and bartering. Existing off cash with a transient lifestyle meant Aubrey had no paper trail.

Though his family was overjoyed to hear that their son was alive, it was agreed that no one would reach out for fear they might scare him off. This must have been extremely difficult after not seeing their son for years. But his parents wanted to do what was best for Aubrey, so they held back.

Eventually, the restraint became too much and a family member reached out to Aubrey. Much to everyone’s relief, Aubrey quickly responded. A phone call was arranged with his mother, and by April 16th, Aubrey was back home in Georgia, reunited with his family.

Aubrey shared tales of his life on the road when he returned home. Local police officers say some of the things he’d done and experienced would “make your jaw drop.” Aubrey’s story wasn’t the gruesome nightmare that his family had been worried about after all.

Statements from Aubrey confirm that he was not harmed in any way over the past two years. Police relay that, “He told us that he left on his own, and had not been abducted, hurt, abused, exploited, or harmed in any way.” Aubrey was just seeing how the other half lived.

As of 2018, the reason for Aubrey’s running away remained unclear. His family was just excited to have him home safe and sound. Social media, for better or worse, is still bringing us closer together. More importantly, though, it’s bringing us back together.

Strangely enough, these ‘missing’ cases are more common than not. When a young boy from Texas went missing in 1994, his family was distraught. However, a few years later, he was found—in a different country. His family was ecstatic by the turn of events, but it soon turned out that not all was as it seemed…

Nicholas Barclay was a young boy from San Antonio, Texas, who had a troubled family life. According to those closest to him, he frequently fought with his parents and teachers, and he would often act out aggressively toward those around him.

Nicholas had even gotten himself into enough trouble that he had a court hearing scheduled due to his disruptive behavior. Little did his family know, however, Nicholas would never make it to the hearing.

The night before Nicholas was scheduled to appear in court, he went out to play basketball with a few friends. After the game was over, the boys all returned home, but Nicholas was never seen again…

Nicholas’s family initially assumed he ran away to avoid the court hearing, but as time went on, they realized he was missing. Nearby counties were alerted, and flyers were distributed, but sadly no one was able to offer any clues as to his whereabouts.

Finally, on an otherwise normal morning in 1997—a full three years after Nicholas went missing—the Barclay family received a phone call from authorities that left them stunned. The police said they’d found Nicholas!

They explained that a young man claiming to be Nicholas was found in a small town in Spain. It was the miracle the family had been awaiting for three exhausting years. Nicholas was immediately put on a plane and sent back to Texas to reunite with his eager family.

Both the family and police desperately wanted to find out what happened three years earlier. Nicholas claimed that he’d been kidnapped and immediately put on a plane to Europe where he was sold into a child sex-trafficking ring. Police in Spain found him, he said, only after he’d escaped.

It’s understandable that such a traumatic event would change a person, but the boy’s mother immediately noticed something off: his hair and eye color were, oddly, different. Nicholas claimed his captors dyed his hair and medically changed the color of his eyes to hide his identity.

As unusual as the differences were, his family firmly believed their son had returned home, even if some family members had their doubts. However, one private investigator named Charlie Parker found the whole story suspicious…

Charlie didn’t believe the kidnappers were physically able to change the boy’s eye color. Also, if what Nicholas said was true, the horrific events he lived through would have most certainly caused him to become withdrawn—but that wasn’t the case at all.

Charlie and other investigators closely examined photos of Nicholas before and after his alleged kidnapping. Besides the eye and hair change, he noticed one more difference that resulted in an alarming breakthrough…

It was the ears! Ears, like fingerprints, are completely unique to an individual, and this young man’s ears didn’t match the boy who disappeared three years earlier. But, if the person they found wasn’t Nicholas Barclay, who exactly were investigators talking to?

It was actually a 23-year-old Frenchman named Frederic Bourdin who was posing as the 16-year-old boy. Frederic was also known as “the Chameleon” by Interpol, the world’s largest police organization.

Frederic was a wanted criminal who impersonated missing children, and over the course of his life, he had masqueraded as hundreds of different personalities—his most recent being Nicholas Barclay.

Frederic apparently got the idea to impersonate the missing boy when the Spanish police who found him said he bore a striking resemblance. That was all he needed to hear to pull off his next stunt.

Charlie Parker immediately told the Barclay family what he and the rest of the investigators discovered. They were in complete dismay at the news. How had they not realized this grown man wasn’t actually Nicholas?

Nicholas’s uncle Jason apparently began to doubt the authenticity of his “nephew” after he arrived home; shortly before Jason was interviewed, however, he’d passed away. After Frederic’s outing by police, the Frenchman proposed his own outrageous theory…

Frederic claimed the Barclay family knew he wasn’t their son all along, and the reason they accepted him was to cover up his murder! As absurd as it was, Charlie Parker still wanted to investigate the claim. Was the young boy’s aggressive nature too much for his family?

Charlie never found conclusive evidence that the Barclays had a hand in Nicholas’s disappearance. He even went as far as digging through the Barclays’ backyard in search of a body, but he came up empty-handed.

Even though he hadn’t found any substantial evidence, Charlie didn’t quite believe the Barclay family was completely innocent in Nicholas’s disappearance. The family, of course, said otherwise, but with all the mysterious circumstances surrounding the case, no one could be sure…