The Chameleon, Frederic Bourdin  AUG 04 2008

Frédéric Bourdin is a Frenchman in his early thirties who has spent much of his life impersonating kidnapped or runaway teens.

At police headquarters, he admitted that he was Frédéric Bourdin, and that in the past decade and a half he had invented scores of identities, in more than fifteen countries and five languages. His aliases included Benjamin Kent, Jimmy Morins, Alex Dole, Sladjan Raskovic, Arnaud Orions, Giovanni Petrullo, and Michelangelo Martini. News reports claimed that he had even impersonated a tiger tamer and a priest, but, in truth, he had nearly always played a similar character: an abused or abandoned child. He was unusually adept at transforming his appearance-his facial hair, his weight, his walk, his mannerisms. "I can become whatever I want," he liked to say. In 2004, when he pretended to be a fourteen-year-old French boy in the town of Grenoble, a doctor who examined him at the request of authorities concluded that he was, indeed, a teen-ager. A police captain in Pau noted, "When he talked in Spanish, he became a Spaniard. When he talked in English, he was an Englishman." Chadourne said of him, "Of course, he lied, but what an actor!"

That's an interesting story by itself but just the tip of the iceberg. At some point, Bourdin's story gets intertwined with that of Nicholas Barclay, a teen who went missing in Texas in 1994. After that, the story proceeds like the craziest episode of Law and Order you've ever seen.

Update: This looks to be Bourdin's YouTube account where he's posted several videos of himself speaking into the camera. Check out his Michael Jackson moves about 2:25 into this video. (thx, hurty)

Read more posts on kottke.org about:
crime   David Grann   Frederic Bourdin   Nicholas Barclay

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