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The "wayward friend / family member gets reunited with their loved ones" is the stuff of sappy novels and Lifetime original movies, but it does happen in real life. It's just that in the real world, well, those reunions may come with a few additional plot twists. For instance ...

A Man Discovers His Long-Lost Dad ... Is Charles Manson


The only thing rock musician Matthew Roberts knew about his early life was that he was born in Chicago in 1968, put up for adoption by parents who either couldn't take care of him or didn't want to because they somehow knew he'd grow up to be a rock musician. He had an average middle-class upbringing, but was never able to shake that lingering mystery about who his birth parents were. So in 1999, Roberts contacted an adoption search organization for details, and they gave him the name of his real mother. Yay! This can only have a happy ending, dammit!

Stewart Cook / Daily Mail
Because there's nothing a child wants more than to reconnect with his Family.

So Roberts initially corresponded with his biological mother through letters, and eventually discovered that she had more than a few cats running around in her skull. But the real shock came when he was finally able to chip a big enough hole through her insane ramblings to get some information about the identity of his father.

She told him that his real dad was one of four men whom she'd had sex with at an orgy in 1967, which is already a less-than-romantic story. But when she saw a photograph of Roberts, she knew instantly which one it was: an aspiring musician named Charles Manson. You may have heard of him.

Ventura County Sheriff's Office
"Oh, he's a musician too?"

Roberts was horrified, but for some insane reason, he decided that blood was thicker than water and started writing letters to Manson in prison. Manson, who once answered an interview question with "wolf kabob roth vanich gefrannis boojapoochaboojujube," was understandably difficult to talk to. But Roberts got enough information from history's most notorious murderer to suggest that what his mom had told him was true.

Tierney Gearon/Details Magazine
Though all he had to do was look in the fucking mirror even once.

If there's a silver lining, it's that the DNA evidence is inconclusive. Roberts has been unable to get a paternity test with Charlie himself, but a DNA test against another of Manson's relatives has shed doubt on him being related to the Beatles' biggest fan. Still, the possibility can only benefit Roberts' music career.

A "Missing Child" Returns To His Parents, Is Actually An Impostor

Alexandre Guirkinger

When young Nicholas Barclay vanished from a basketball game near his house, his parents had to prepare themselves for the possibility that they might never see their son again. But they never completely gave up hope. Three years later, that hope was rewarded when their son turned up alive and well in Spain. The family was so grateful to hear their son's voice and put an end to their nightmare that they booked a ticket for him on the first plane home ... which was the precise moment everything went wrong.

You see, hope and grief are powerful emotions; so much so that Barclay's parents didn't take a particularly close look at the man who got off the plane claiming to be their son. For example, they apparently didn't think much of the fact that their formerly white, blue-eyed son now had olive skin and brown eyes. Or that he now had a French accent. Or that he was clearly in his mid-20s when he should have been 16. After all, years of trauma can dramatically change a person -- up to and including their race and speed of passage through spacetime, it seems.

Picturehouse Entertainment, Francparler / Wiki Commons
What towheaded young man doesn't grow up to look like a dime-store Quentin Tarantino?

The Barclays happily moved "Nicholas" into their son's old bedroom and even enrolled him in a local school, which he attended for five months until the media caught wind of the story and started nosing around.

Eventually, people started asking the questions that the Barclays were too afraid to, and the story quickly fell apart. "Nicholas" was a somewhat-notorious 23-year-old con artist named Frederic Bourdin, and he had pulled this exact stunt before. Bourdin made a living out of pretending to be an escaped kidnapping victim, although this was the first time he managed to successfully assume the identity of a person who truly existed.

DDM Archives
Maybe if he didn't dress like a Brat Pack villain two decades after everyone else stopped, he'd have more success.

The story was made into a documentary called The Imposter, which Bourdin reportedly refused to watch because it "makes him out to be a liar." We cannot argue with his assessment.

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The LAPD Returns A Missing Child To His Worried Mother ... But It's The Wrong Kid

Los Angeles Public Library

Nine-year-old Walter Collins left his house on March 10, 1928, headed for the movies with a dime clutched in his fist (because dimes used to be able to pay for things). He was never seen again. His disappearance sparked a national outcry (and eventually a Clint Eastwood movie) over the LAPD's inefficiency in their handling of the case. But right as Walter's mother Christine was beginning to give up hope, the LAPD contacted her with good news: Walter had been located in Illinois, and they'd put him on the first train home to LA.

However, when the boy who stepped off the train was clearly not her son, as Christine Collins immediately noticed (unlike the Barclays). She tried to explain this to the LAPD, but she had the unfortunate disadvantage of being a woman in the 1920s, so the police assumed that she was simply an idiot who would confuse a hole in the wall for her own vagina if she didn't have a man to tell her otherwise.

Los Angeles Public Library
"Either way, your kid's going to grow up to creep everyone out with their dead-eyed stare, so run with it."

The cops told her to take the boy home and "try him out" for a while, because missing children are kind of like home appliances that you can send back for a refund if they don't work to your satisfaction. And please note that we are not being hyperbolic for the purposes of comedy; the cops literally told her to take her fake son on a test drive.

So Christine took the boy home, because she had no other choice. She returned to the police station two weeks later with her son's dental records and signed statements from friends and family swearing that the new child was not hers. The police responded in a reasonable and measured manner by committing her to an asylum.

Los Angeles Public Library
At this point, she would have been perfectly justified in becoming a Batman villain called The Mother.

Collins was only released after the kid himself admitted that he was a runaway orphan named Arthur Hutchins, and had posed as Walter so that he could move to Los Angeles. And even though this makes him one of the only little children in history who truly deserved a merciless ass-beating, he still comes off as less shitty than the Los Angeles Police Department, which should have fucking known better.

Twins Who Were Separated At Birth Find Each Other ... And Unknowingly Get Married

Michael Blann/DigitalVision/Getty Images

This story combines two elements of feel-good made-for-TV dramas: A couple discovering the soulmates they magically have everything in common with, and adopted children discovering the truth about their biological parents. Shit, that's like exponential happiness right there!

Or not. In 2008, a husband and wife approached the high court of Great Britain in order to request that their marriage be annulled. It wasn't because they didn't love each other anymore or had gotten married on a reality show. No, this couple had recently found out that they were brother and sister. And unless you're a Game Of Thrones character, no amount of rationalization can make that relationship comfortable.

The twins (who had requested to remain anonymous in the media for obvious reasons) were separated at birth and adopted by different families, and lived normal lives up to the point where they met as adults and discovered that they had an awful lot in common. Including the same birth date and location, and the fact that they were both adopted. Crazy coincidence, huh?

Nick White/DigitalVision/Getty Images
As was that mutual post-coital feeling that they had masturbated.

You might think that being adopted and sharing every detail of your early life with your spouse would put up a couple of red flags, but the couple decided that this was merely evidence that they were destined to be together, because movies teach us to be stupid assholes. Finally, they decided to look into their biological heritage, and discovered that they had so much in common that any children they bore had a high chance of being mutants.

Or monsters.

The case created a political firestorm in the British parliament which renewed the debate about the right of adopted children to know details about their family heritage. This seems academic, since splitting brothers and sisters up at birth and then not allowing them to know who their siblings are is an obvious problem. But politicians ultimately decided that the twins' situation was "incredibly rare." So if you're adopted and you find yourself getting along really well with an inexplicably attractive stranger at a party, there's a chance you might be an hour or two away from fucking your brother.

On a disturbingly similar note ...

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A Woman Grows Up Not Knowing Her Father, Then Discovers She's Been Married To Him

Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images

Valerie Spruill's life turned upside down when she was nine years old and the people she had been calling her parents told her that they were in fact her grandparents, and that the nice lady who used to visit her a lot was her biological mother. Still, she got over the betrayal and grew up to live a relatively normal life, eventually marrying a man named Percy and living happily with him until he died at the age of 60 in 1998.

It was then that Valerie decided to finally track down information about her biological father. After a bit of sleuthing, she discovered that her father's name was ... Percy Spruill. A DNA test conducted on hairs from his old brush confirmed that she had married her own father.

We're one away from a Game Of Thrones sexual hat trick.

Valerie is unsure to this day whether Percy knew the truth (he had hooked up with Valerie's biological mother at the age of 15). Percy and Valerie didn't meet until many years later, when they were both much older (Valerie had already been married once before). Thankfully, they didn't have any children together, but Valerie still had to go through what was presumably the most awkward family lunch in history when she broke the news to her three kids from her previous marriage.

The story somehow gets worse. After Valerie learned the truth, her family revealed that they had known all along. Look, we understand that it's difficult to tell your kids that you don't think the romantic partner they've chosen is right for them, but "Hey, you're about to spend a few decades fucking your dad" is really the point at which you should consider speaking up.

A Guy Turns Up Alive At His Own Funeral, Then Goes On A Rampage

James Akin

Timothy Dexter was an American businessman in the 18th century who was best known for being "eccentric" -- which we all know is a euphemism for "crazy rich person." Despite growing up as a farm laborer with a room temperature IQ, he managed to blunder his way into fortune through a series of bad business decisions that turned out to be lucky successes, like selling coal bed warmers to tropical countries, only to get rich when the locals bought them to use as big ladles. That's not a joke. This is how this man made his money.

Then one day, thousands of Dexter's friends and associates received a telegram announcing that the poor man had passed away. Thousands of mourners showed up to pay their respects at Dexter's funeral, and then attended the wake at his mansion, which supplied no shortage of free booze. It was only later in the evening when a surprise guest appeared: Timothy Dexter himself, prancing dramatically out like he the Red Death, only presumably way more drunk.

John Tilton
Unless you think somebody wrote this, earnestly thinking it better than Shakespeare, while stone-cold sober.

No, he wasn't a zombie fresh out of the grave, and the wake didn't descend into a brain-scooping orgy of supernatural violence. Dexter had conspired with a few members of his immediate family to fake his death and organize a mock funeral, all for the sake of seeing how many people would show up. His bad business sense was evidently overshadowed only by his crippling insecurity.

John Henry Bufford
You'd think a guy whose giant statue of himself included the inscription "the first in the East, the first in the West, and the greatest philosopher in the Western world" would have fewer confidence issues.

Rather than being overjoyed to learn that their friend and loved one was still alive, his "mourners" were forced to look on in terror as Dexter flew into a rage when he decided that the attendees weren't as distraught by his death as he would have liked. He then gallantly beat his wife as punishment for not crying at his funeral, a reaction that also served to explain why she hadn't been crying.

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A "Murdered" Man Turns Up Alive ... After His Friend Is Executed For Killing Him

Nebraska State Historical Society

John Cameron and his friend William Jackson Marion set out from their small town in Nebraska in 1872 to look for work, because the job market was even worse back then. However, only Marion made it back home, suspiciously carrying all of his friend's possessions and claiming that Cameron had run off by himself and disappeared, presumably looking to make a better life for himself somewhere less depressing than Nebraska.

The plot thickened when a body was discovered with multiple bullet wounds to the head, and identified as John Cameron. Marion became the key suspect in the murder, because there has never been a more obvious murder suspect in history. He was like the suspect in a five-year-old's version of a mystery novel.

Gage County Historical Society
Right down to the shifty eyes and cartoonishly twirlable mustache.

Marion was taken into custody and stood trial for the robbery and murder of his friend. After only an hour of deliberation, the jury found him guilty, because this was long before the time of CSI, fingerprint databases, or really, any scientific way of identifying a body beyond "Well, the victim had a mustache, and this mostly-decayed body appears to have a mustache, so this is clearly our guy." Take special note of that fact, because it will become important later.

Marion firmly denied that he had anything to do with Cameron's murder, even after his conviction -- but in fairness, that's exactly what a murderer would say. So Marion was hanged in 1887, and that was the end of the story.

That is, until four years later, when the very much not-murdered John Cameron came back looking for his friend William Marion and all of the belongings he'd loaned him.

Omaha Bee
The original headline just read "Oops."

Yeah, it turns out that the bullet-riddled corpse that had been found lying in the dirt wasn't John Cameron at all, but some other poor soul whose murder will forever remain unsolved. We're sure that Cameron's family was thrilled to learn that he was alive, but the conversation about how they executed his best friend while he was gone was probably pretty awkward. But hey, at least he got all his stuff back.

Janel Comeau has never been reunited with anything horrifying except her student loan debt. And if you want to read more from her, you can reunite with her on Twitter or her excessively funny website.

For more incredibly unfortunate circumstances, check out The 7 Most Bizarrely Unlucky People Who Ever Lived and 6 People Who Mixed Bad Luck With Stupidity.

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