Alone With a Ghost

Carol Collins’ one true love was killed Vietnam—or so she thought. Twenty years later, a mysterious photograph has turned her life upside down.

THE INSIDE OF CAROL COLLINS’ house in San Antonio is mostly unexceptional. Her walls are plain, her furniture is functional, her blinds are shut against the outside light. All that is remarkable are the photographs—dozens of them, all of one man: her ex-husband, Donald Gene Carr, a United States Army captain declared missing in action during the Vietnam War. Carol’s bookshelves are lined with pictures of him. Her albums are filled with snapshots of him. Her coffee table is stacked with articles about him. Twenty years after his disappearance, Donald Carr is everywhere.

On the credenza in her living room are two photographs that have become the focus of Carol’s attention. One shows a young and robust man, his hair blackish and thick, his eyes tilted upward, his mouth in an expectant half-smile. This is Donald Carr at 23, on his wedding day in 1962. The other shows a man clearly past middle age, wrinkled and jowly, with a loose, disheveled grin. Purportedly, this is Donald Carr at 50, photographed two years ago at a Laotian prison camp. You might not think the men look alike unless you examine the two pictures together. Then uncanny similarities begin to emerge: the same protruding jug ears, the same laugh lines extending down to the same squared-off jaw.

Until the second photo surfaced last May,

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