Barbara Ryan was first introduced to the Hughes family when her mother, Jennifer, married Bob Hughes. Barbara was very happy for her mother and liked having Bob for a stepfather. Though Barbara was a fairly uncomplicated teenager, her adult life is another story. After a long absence, Barbara returned to town, having just graduated from art school, fleeing a failed romance with Dr. Steven Farrell. Unable to live without her, Steven followed her to Oakdale and got a job in the cardiology department at Memorial. The couple rekindled their romance, but Steven had a secret past, one he could not share with the woman he loved. The year ended on a sad not when, on the night Nancy Hughes was to give an engagement party for the happy couple, Steven skipped town, leaving Barbara to nurse a broken heart.
She then began dating her former stepbrother Tom Hughes. At about this time, Barbara began receiving mysterious phone calls. Soon, she was forced to confess a deep, dark secret--three years earlier Barbara had an affair with the aristocratic, very rich James Stenbeck. Believing he did not want to raise the child, she gave Paul to her friend Claudia Colfax to raise. Unfortunately, Claudia's husband, Raymond, proved to be an abusive man and,with Tom's help, Barbara was able to secure custody of Paul. Just then, James came to Oakdale himself. Barbara resisted a romantic reunion with the dashing aristocrat and became engaged to Tom, but Stenbeck soon learned that he was Paul's father and confronted her on her wedding day. Barbara tearfully left Tom at the altar and ran off to the Caribbean with James and they made plans to marry. The Stenbeck fortune first became a problem for the couple when Charles Ivenstrom, whose daughter was pregnant by James' brother, tried to kill them so that his grandchild-to-be, rather than Paul, would inherit the money. Barbara was shot, but survived, and she and James married in her hospital room. Following Charles' arrest, James’s brother accused James of marrying Barbara so James would have access to Paul's inheritance. James assured Barbara that this was ridiculous. Unfortunately, for Barbara, the marriage proved disastrous. Seeing nothing wrong with having a wife and a mistress, James began an affair with Margo Montgomery, Barbara's private nurse. In addition, James decided to supplement his fortune by smuggling drugs and stolen jewelry through the fashion company he bought for Barbara. Finally, Barbara found out about the affair and the illegal activities.
Though James was able to talk Barbara into giving their marriage a chance, it became clear that Barbara was becoming disenchanted. At the same time she suspected that James was having another affair, this time with Dee Stewart, Barbara started having bizarre visions of a previous life. The visions consisted of a woman who looked just like her, named Bianca, who resided in Paris with her husband Jason (who looked remarkably like James). Bianca would later learn Jason was carrying on an affair with the maid, Daphne (who looked like Dee Stewart). Later, Barbara's flashbacks started to have a mysterious blonde Englishman coming to Paris who, for some reason, was very angry with Jason. The mysterious blonde Englishman challenged Jason to a dual (with Jason getting the upper hand, at first). In the summer of 1982, Bianca (Barbara's doppelganger) learned this mysterious blonde Englishman's name, Geoffrey. Not long after, at the funeral of James's brother, Lars, Barbara was shocked to see a man who looked exactly like Geoffrey--Gunnar St. Clair. Gunnar surprised the Stenbecks by claiming to be James's cousin. He produced records from the St. Clair orphanage showing that Greta Aldrin, James's ex-nanny, brought him there after his parents died, because James's father didn't want him living in the same house. James ordered an investigation and was determined not let Gunnar claim any rights to the Stenbeck fortune.
A little later, near the start of September 1982, the Stenbecks were surprised when Gunnar showed up at the penthouse. Electrified by his presence, Barbara mistakenly called him Geoffrey. Later, at Fashions, Gunnar saw Barbara holding a blue dress and suggested that she buy it. Later, she had a vision of Bianca wearing a similar dress for Geoffrey. Whenever she wore the blue dress, Barbara felt loved. Barbara was convinced these visions were premonitions of the end of her marriage, and she was afraid of her attraction to Gunnar. Barbara headed for her cabin in Michigan to get away. When Barbara got into her car at the cabin, a masked man put a gun to her head. Barbara's captors were Charles Ivenstrom, the man who had once ordered her death, and his daughter, Ingrid, the widow of James's younger brother, Lars. Ingrid blamed Barbara and James for her husband's death. Lars and James would have had to share the Stenbeck fortune, and Ingrid said Lars futilely begged James to keep him out of bankruptcy. Desperate, Lars got drunk and died in the hiking "accident." Ingrid vowed to kill Barbara, and her father, Charles, was helping her get back the money that was rightfully hers. The kidnappers mistook Gunner for James, and demanded $2 million in cash for Barbara. They insisted Gunnar make the drop, but captured him as he approached. Alone in a dark cellar, on Halloween Eve, Gunnar and Barbara declared their love. They escaped and hid in a nearby barn. As they slept, a little girl wandered in and told her parents, who contracted the police. James arrived to find Gunnar and Barbara sleeping in each other's arms. Alone with Barbara, James accused her of having an affair with Gunnar, which she denied. Meanwhile, Gunnar found a painting of a woman who bore a striking resemblance to Barbara/Bianca and bought it, telling Barbara the picture meant they were destined to be together.
Immediately after, Gunnar proposed. Soon after, Barbara overheard John Dixon yelling at Dee that Barbara was a fool to stay married to the man who ran him down and who was having an affair with Dee. Shocked, she told James she and Paul were moving out. James's attorney, Mr. Hoyt, warned James about losing control of the Stenbeck fortune. He begged Barbara to reconsider and warned that she and Gunnar would never get custody of Paul. Barbara ignored him and went to Switzerland with Gunnar, leaving Paul with her Aunt Kim and Kim's husband, Nick. Meanwhile, the intensity of the visions was becoming much, with people noticing how distracting she was becoming. Finally Lisa, her partner in Fashions, suggested that Barbara see a psychiatrist, Dr. Ben Forrest. Unfortunately, this suggestion fell right into James's plans for Barbara since he decided to use this as a means to get Barbara locked away so he'd get control of Fashions.
Dr. Forrest administered to Barbara a psychotropic drug that made Barbara's past life visions get even more bizarre while all along Dr. Forrest pretended that she was getting better in remembering Bianca's life in Paris. Barbara even started blurring the reality of her life into the life of Bianca's and this was courtesy of James (via a drug that Mr. Big provided him). James broke into Forrest's office that he shared with Dr. Matt Butler, and stole Barbara's psychiatric files, which contained information about Mme. Koster and the visions. He bribed Mme. Koster into becoming his co-conspirator. Barbara had moved into the then vacant Stewart house, and on James's instructions, Mme. Koster sent a woman named Sylvia to apply for the job of housekeeper, and Barbara hired her. James planned to drive Barbara crazy so that he could get custody of Paul. Soon, Sylvia began tormenting her. Sylvia made noises and terrified Barbara with an image of the Everett painting on the wall. When she turned on the lights, the image vanished! James began dressing up as Jason. When Barbara spotted him, she fainted. Gunnar promised to keep her safe. One night, James/Jason lured Barbara into a raging storm. He then left her there and told Paul that she was missing. The next morning he "found" her and made her feel guilty of leaving Paul alone in the house. Everyone was worried about Barbara's state of mind, but Gunnar suspected James and installed round-the-clock surveillance.
Meanwhile, Sylvia was drugging Barbara's coffee, and Barbara began acting even more strangely. Even Paul backed away when she reached out to him. Finally, while Barbara was drugged, James ripped her dress, cut her arm lightly and placed a letter opener in her hand. She awoke screaming and terrified Paul. At that point, James committed Barbara to a sanatorium, and Gunnar arrived too late to stop him. The doctor, Henry Moller, was a cohort of James. Gunnar accused James of having Barbara committed in order to take Paul away, and he refused to leave until he got her out. However, James told Barbara that Gunnar had left. Barbara was alone and frightened, and the drugs made her lash out at everyone -- even Kim. Later, Gunnar found her and gave her a locket. He told her that if she weren't sure he existed, she should look at the locket. They tried to escape but were captured. Barbara was sedated and James found the locket and got rid of it. The nurse tried to convince Barbara that she had imagined the locket, but Barbara knew better, and Gunnar continued to defend her sanity. One night, he was able to whisk her away and told they would "spend the future together."
Near the end of 1982, Gunnar got Tom to help him get papers that would validate Barbara's sanity. Paul had been staying with Ariel because James said the boy was afraid of Barbara. When attorney Maggie Crawford issued James a copy of the decree ordering visitation rights for Barbara, James tore it up. He threatened Gunnar and demanded they meet at the Stenbeck refinery. Barbara grabbed a gun and arrived just as James was about to throw Gunnar from a catwalk. Barbara tripped, and the gun went off with the bullet hitting James in the stomach. He told Barbara he'd make her pay for what she'd done and told Paul that Barbara had shot him. When Barbara saw Paul, she reached out for him, and the boy ran away in terror! Later, James told Barbara he would take her to trial for attempted murder unless she signed an agreement giving him full custody of Paul. An angry Barbara tore up the agreement and threw it in his face. When Barbara learned that James intended to take Paul to Europe, she and Gunnar went to Maggie Crawford and told her that if she couldn't do anything legally, they were going to take Paul. Maggie warned them there could be serious consequences if they did. When James got wind that Barbara and Gunnar had seen the District Attorney about Paul's custody, he knew he had to stop them. He came up with the perfect "accident." James invited Barbara to a private bullfighting demonstration he was presenting in Spain in honor of Paul's birthday. With James, Karen, Barbara and Gunnar in attendance, the birthday bullfight was a great success.
The next day, James told Paul to call his mommy and ask her to meet James at the bullring for a surprise. Gunnar suspected foul play but was detained by one of James's men. Barbara arrived and walked toward t he center of the ring to pick up a bouquet of flowers that James had strategically placed there for her. A sudden noise made her turn around, and to her horror she saw a bull coming straight at her. Luckily, Gunnar arrived on the scene and diverted the bull's attention. His plan foiled, an angry James challenged Gunnar to a duel and lost. James was forced to sign custody papers and bade Paul a tearful goodbye. Barbara and Gunnar happily claimed Paul and told him that they were going to be a real family now. What started out as a vision had now turned into a dream come true as Barbara married Gunnar. In honor of their upcoming marriage, Barbara made good use of the Stenbeck fortune by giving an endowment of the St. Clair Orphanage, where Gunnar had spent his childhood years.
Later, Gunnar himself started having strange visions of his former love, Nicole, who had died. For a time, he feared that he was losing his mind and started to believe that he caused Nicole's suicide, until he learned that James was hiring a woman, Lorna, to pose as Nicole. Fearing that he was going to lose his visitation rights, James lured Paul away from camp and took him on a trip. When Barbara found out, she was frantic! In a hotel room in Cheyenne with James, Paul saw a news bulletin about his disappearance, and realized that his father had lied to him. When Barbara and Gunnar arrived in Cheyenne and traced James to the hotel, all they found was Paul's teddy bear lying in the middle of an empty room. When they returned home, however, Paul was there to greet them! The ever-manipulative James claimed that his son had asked him to take him out of camp, and once they saw the news and knew how worried everyone was, they had come home. Barbara had had it -- James would never see his son again! When Barbara and Gunnar tried to explain this to Paul, the boy blamed Gunnar for keeping him away from his father. Paul even stopped talking to them and Barbara and Gunnar were forced to take Paul to child psychiatrist, Zachary Stone. Never one to miss an opportunity, James tried to turn Paul against Barbara as well. Later, after a failed attempt to kill Gunnar, James apparently fell to his death from an airplane. Now free, Gunnar and Barbara finally made plans to marry. Unfortunately, they met resistance from Paul, who blamed Gunnar for his father's death. To spare Paul, Gunnar and Barbara separated for a time. However when they finally got together, Gunnar started acting distant and led Barbara to think that he was having an affair. Later, with encouragement from his doctor, John Dixon, Gunnar told Barbara the truth: he was suffering from a terminal blood disease. Though Barbara remained supportive, Gunnar didn't want her to watch him die and set out to travel the world in a hot-air balloon. Later, he was found dead in Australia.
Afterwards, Barbara next set her sights on newspaperman Brian McColl. Soon, the couple fell in love and made plans to marry. Unfortunately, Paul, was vehemently against the marriage and caused trouble. Continually argumentative, at one point, Paul hit Brian several times and when Brian raised his hand, instinctively, to hit back, Barbara walked in and railed into Brian. Disgusted at Barbara's tendency to let Paul dictate her life, Brian broke off the engagement. With Lisa's encouragement, Barbara tried to go to his place to take him back, only to find Shannon O'Hara in the room wearing Brian's bathrobe. From that moment, Barbara vowed to no longer be victimized by men. Soon a different Barbara Ryan emerged. Later, Barbara attempted to seduce Tom Hughes, now married to Margo (James's former mistress). Though her attempt was unsuccessful, she did put a cramp in the Hughes marriage after lying to Margo that she and Tom had made love. Since Tom had been drunk on the day in question, he had no idea if it was true or not. When Tom "confessed" to Margo, she left town for several months, leaving Barbara free to comfort a heartbroken Tom. At the same time, Barbara's jealousy caused her to be a thorn in Shannon's side when she decided to do some digging to get the dirt on Shannon. Her efforts paid off when she learned Shannon had a husband. Vindictively wanting to stop Shannon's wedding to Brian, Barbara located Shannon's husband, Duncan McKechnie, and brought him to Oakdale.
Soon after, Barbara got the shock of her life: James was alive! He apparently had survived the fall out of the airplane with the use of a parachute. After his initial appearance, James was able to evade the police for weeks. In the meantime, Barbara bonded with the detective in charge of the case, Hal Munson. Around Hal, Barbara finally started loosening up and enjoying the simple pleasures in life, such as a hockey game and a can of beer. Eventually, James was apprehended and put on trial. However, with the help of Lucinda Walsh, he was exonerated. Like Barbara, Lucinda was only a means to an end. While working at Walsh Enterprises, he started embezzling funds in order to regain his fortune. It didn't take long though for the authorities to go after him again for illegal business dealings in Europe. On the run again, James blackmailed his ex-lover Emily Stewart into helping him escape and manipulated Paul into keeping his whereabouts secret. However, James couldn't hide his dangerous nature from Paul for long and in order to spare John Dixon's life, Paul agreed to go with his father. Unfortunately for James, the police were waiting for them. After a standoff in a cabin at Ruxton Hills, James apparently died in fire, his body burned beyond recognition. Although there were a slew of suspects, Barbara would end up being arrested when her gun was found to be the one that killed James and Tonio Reyres reported that he saw her enter the house right before he heard gunshots. For her own part, Barbara had no memory of the night and couldn't defend herself. She was convicted of the crime and sent to jail. Luckily, she was exonerated when it was discovered that the body in the house wasn't James--it was his accomplice whom James must have murdered to fake his death. Her ordeal over, Barbara married Hal in an elegant ceremony at Lakewood Towers.
Soon after their marriage, Barbara figured out that Hal was Adam Hughes's biological father, since she knew Tom was out of town when Margo apparently conceived, and knew about Hal & Margo's affair. Fearing losing Hal to Margo, Barbara decided to keep this a secret from Hal. At the same time, a teenaged Paul was offered an internship at Montgomery & Associates, something Barbara wouldn't stand for since she didn’t want Paul working around James's older lover, Emily. However, at this point, Emily accidentally learned about Margo's true conception date and blackmailed Barbara into letting Paul work there--or she'd tell Hal the truth. In the end, Margo told Hal the truth. Shocked, Hal distanced himself from Barbara, as he tried to deal with the revelation. In the meantime, James resurfaced again and returned to Oakdale to retrieve his son. By now, James truly wanted Paul to be close to him and was disconcerted that Paul hated him. Lurking in the shadows, James learned of Paul's affair with Emily. Disgusted by the affair, he decided to murder Emily. However, this time, Paul rescued the intended victim and shot his father dead. During the course of the trial, Paul and Emily kept the truth to themselves, leaving Barbara to believe that Emily killed James. Afterwards, the pair told the truth and Paul left town.
Meanwhile, Barbara's marriage to Hal was floundering and she left for Europe and ended up having an affair with a man named Darryl Crawford. Finally, Hal tracked her down, and seeing that she was pregnant, he assumed the child was his and brought her home. Months later, Barbara gave birth to a daughter, Jennifer. Unfortunately, a man named Gavin Kruger knew about Barbara's affair in Europe. Also complicating matters was Darryl who arrived in town and suspected that he was Jennifer's father. Unfortunately, Hal divorced Barbara once he learned that the child, Jennifer, wasn't his and left town to do some undercover work and get away from Barbara. Meanwhile, Barbara tried to hide the identity of the Jennifer's father, since Darryl was now dating Barbara's sister, Frannie. However, the truth came and Darryl agreed to give up all claims to Jennifer. Later, Hall returned to Oakdale. By this time his anger toward Barbara had softened and they made love. Soon after, Hal left again on another undercover assignment and was presumed dead. When he resurfaced, he found out that his night with Barbara produced a child, Will. Hal married Barbara at his father's house and agreed to raise Jennifer as his own. Unfortunately, Barbara resented the time that Hal spent at the police station and, to get attention, she invented a stalker. At the same time, a man named Franco Viisconti was using BRO to smuggle diamonds, with the help of BRO employee, Gregory. To get rid of Hal, who was investigating the case, Gregory sabotaged the elevator at BRO only to have Barbara get in instead! Luckily, she was unhurt. Later, when Barbara saw the diamonds spill out of Gregory's briefcase, she realized what he was doing. Although he made plans to kill her, Hal saved her in the last moment. Unfortunately for Barbara, during the course of the investigation, Margo learned that Barbara had been her own stalker and informed Hal. Furious at her deception, Hal left Barbara and eventually divorced her.
Later, Barbara found herself attracted to John Dixon--her Aunt Kim's ex-husband and her James's worst enemy. In time, Barbara and John fell in love and they married after she got pregnant. Unfortunately, Barbara lost the baby after suffering injuries in a fire. Unable to deal with the loss of her baby, she distanced herself from John and they divorced. Of great comfort during this period was Hal, who was a good friend to her. Hal helped her deal with the death of her baby and they remarried in a simple ceremony in their home.
The marriage came under strain, however, when Hal focused on a teenaged Jen's relationship with Bryant Montgomery. Upset with Hal's stubbornness regarding Bryant, and jealous about his connection to Carly Tenney, Barbara started feeling neglected and started appreciating the advances of Bryant's father, Craig. Barbara was immediately attracted to Craig's worldliness and found him much more exciting than Hal. Over the course of several weeks, Barbara's attraction to Craig grew and she decided that she was unhappy with Hal and asked him for a divorce. Then against her better judgment and against the advice of her family, Barbara agreed to marry Craig. That marriage turned out to be a terrible mistake. Mere weeks after the wedding, Barbara found out that Craig was stealing money from her company. Enraged, she decided to turn him into the police and set up a meeting with police officer Jack Snyder. Tragically while waiting for Jack, Barbara was caught in a terrible explosion that left her in a coma for weeks and horribly scarred. Upon waking, she insisted that Craig as the man responsible for the bombing, only to find out that she was wrong: she was never the intended target, Carly Tenney was.
Burned horribly, Barbara's self esteem quickly unraveled. Ashamed of her appearance, she isolated herself from everyone except Paul, who'd returned to town when she was in the hospital. Although she shut everyone else out, she seemed to lean more and more heavily on Paul. Though she tried to continue designing, it was clear that her damaged self-image was affecting her work. Telling Paul that she could develop a fabulous new fall line, Paul soon realized that she couldn't and tried to hire Carly against Barbara's wishes. At this time, James re-entered Barbara's life. James quickly turned on the charm and made her believe that she was still beautiful. Throughout the next several weeks, he manipulated Barbara and fed on her hatred and insecurity. After weeks of loathing herself and others, Barbara finally asked James to get rid of the three women she hated the most: Emily Stewart (who was now dating Hal), Rose D'Angelo (who was dating Paul), and Carly Tenney (who she felt was trying to steal away BRO). Unfortunately, things didn't go as Barbara at hoped and soon her connection to the women's disappearances came out. When her collusion with James was made public, both Hal and Paul swore her off. Barbara may have sunken more into madness if it hadn't have been for John's help. Recognizing that she was ill, he convinced her Lisa and Kim to help him help Barbara. With John's help, Barbara struggled to get back her self-esteem and vowed to bring James down for kidnapping, even though it meant she'd go down too.
Slowly getting her self-esteem back, Barbara started redeeming herself by getting through to Hal, who had been brainwashed by James. Though by now, she deeply regretted throwing away her life with Hal, she realized that he loved Emily and reminded an unstable Hal of his love for Emily and his children. Then in a final act of redemption, Barbara sacrificed herself to James so that Carly would go free. After spending weeks with James, Barbara (whose face had been reconstructed) was horrified to learn that he was holding Emily hostage and planned on killing her. Knowing she had to save Emily, Barbara pretended to want to kill Emily and then stabbed James! Finally free, she escaped with Emily and returned to Oakdale where she awaited trial for her crimes. Unfortunately, her troubles were far from over. In addition to realizing that she'd lost Hal to Emily for good, Barbara was also facing jail time for her crimes. Not wanting to go to jail, she allowed her lawyer, Marshall, to get her off by claiming diminished capacity. Marshall succeeded in painting Barbara as an innocent victim who was abandoned by her friends in her hour of need. Though the plan worked in getting her set free, it also cost her her friendship with Lisa and the respect of her Aunt Kim. In addition to losing her friends, Barbara was forced to sell BRO to Rosanna Cabot to pay for her legal fees. Bitter and alone, Barbara sought custody of her son, Will, and vowed to keep him away from Hal and Emily.
Angry and bitter, Barbara was consumed with ending Paul and Rose's relationship and sought out Dusty Donavan. Knowing that Dusty was having money problems, Barbara offered him money to break the couple up. Though he tried, ultimately his conscience got the best of him and he confessed all. When a betrayed Paul left town again, Barbara refused to pay Dusty a cent. However, Barbara got a chance to reclaim her career when Rosanna offered to let her design for Monte Carlo, despite resistance from Craig and Carly. Feeling victory in her grasp, a gloating Barbara was suddenly kidnapped and locked away in a cabin. Knowing that Craig was behind it, Barbara found a way to escape and revealed herself at Craig and Rosanna's wedding. Though the police doubted Barbara's story at first, soon Jack Snyder learned that Barbara was telling the truth and was forced to arrest Craig, Emily, and Rose. Seeing a way to get what she wanted, Barbara offered to drop the charges if Craig would sell Monte Carlo to her for $ 1. Soon after, Barbara was elated when Paul (who'd been presumed dead), came back to Oakdale. However, Paul was still bitter at Barbara and warned her that he'd protect Jennifer and Will from their mother. What followed next was a game of one-upmanship between Barbara and Paul starting with Paul bringing in Jennifer's former gold-digging European boyfriend and setting it up so that Jennifer would see Barbara paying him to leave town. Though Jennifer temporarily turned away from Barbara, Barbara was able to convince her that Paul was the one who set the whole thing up. Not long after, Paul mysteriously hooked up with Rose again and the pair made plans to leave Oakdale together forever. Wanting Paul to stay in town, Barbara decided to use Will. She sprayed graffiti in Paul's apartment and then had Will confess!
Unfortunately, her plan backfired and she ended up losing the right to see Will alone. Blaming Rose for the loss of Paul's respect, Barbara hired a hit man to kill her but suddenly had a change of heart and backed out of the deal. Weeks later, a gun-toting Barbara decided to stop Rose and Paul's wedding. Dressed up as a nun, she snuck into the wedding but was caught by Hal. Showing Hal that the gun wasn't loaded--she just wanted to scare Rose--Hal took her home and made her a deal--if she went to therapy, he'd consider letting her see Will again. Barbara agreed. Later that day, Rose was fatally poisoned! A potential suspect, Barbara removed a bottle and glasses from the scene. Believing that Paul had killed Rose, Barbara hid the evidence in Molly McKinnon's room only to be shocked when it wound up at Paul's crypt! It was then that Barbara starting visiting Will and telling him that he could trust her with his secrets. When Paul was arrested for Rose's murder, Barbara surprised everyone by confessing! Telling a bitter Paul that she was trying to protect her son, Barbara awaited sentencing. The day of her sentencing, Barbara startled everyone by escaping and taking Will!
Unbeknownst to Barbara, Dusty was certain that Paul was the killer and found evidence--computer files from Paul's computer which showed him visiting websites devoted to selling the drug, Methanol. Eyeing the files, Paul made a horrific discovery and went to locate Barbara. After locating Barbara and Will at a helipad preparing to leave town, Paul revealed that he knew who killed Rose--Will. It was then that Will admitted to poisoning Rose, not with the intent to kill her but to merely make her sick so the pair wouldn't leave Oakdale. While sickened by the revelation, Paul assured Will that he still loved him and drew him in a hug. However, Paul wouldn't let go since he didn't want him leave with Barbara, since it was Barbara who had poisoned Will against Rose in the first place. With Paul refusing to let go of Will, Will was put into police custody and finally sent to a state psychiatric facility.
Not long after, Barbara was pleasantly surprised when Paul offered to call a truce and told her he wanted to help her resurrect BRO. Elated, Barbara welcomed Paul. Although Craig warned Barbara that Paul was plotting to oust her from her company, Barbara believed Paul's assertion that Craig was lying. About this time, Barbara started experiencing headaches and blurred vision. Desperate to have her company be a success again with her family surrounding her, Barbara reluctantly went to Dr. Walker Daniels about her vision problems. After a cursory exam, Walker determined that Barbara had a tumor against her eye. Although he recommended treatment, Barbara made him vow to keep her condition a secret and told him that she needed more time to put her affairs in order, mainly getting her company off the ground again for the sake of her children. Not seeing any harm in waiting, Walker complied. Desperate to save her company, Barbara suddenly offered Carly a partnership! Although Carly was wary of Barbara's offer, Barbara was able to convince her that the offer was a sincere one. As the weeks went by with Barbara desperately trying to hide her condition, Walker became more and more concerned about Barbara's health since the longer she waited the greater chance her condition could be fatal. Finally, fed up with Barbara's hesitation, Walker gave her an ultimatum--either get treatment or he'd tell her family of her condition. Faced with the revelation that time was running out for her, Barbara agreed to undergo radiation treatment, but insisted it be kept secret. However, Barbara's secret was about to be found out. Although Barbara had tried to cover up her condition for weeks, Carly finally caught on. Although she tried to persuade Barbara to confide in her family, Barbara refused and was adamant about the show going on so the company could be a success for her children.
In the midst of this, Paul had discovered that Barbara had given her new assistant, Jordan Sinclair, purchasing power at BRO and saw this as a sign that he was being booted out of the company. Things finally came to a head, the night of Barbara and Carly's fashion show, when Paul cruelly confronted Barbara in front of everyone and told them he was in charge and that the show was cancelled. At this point, Paul finally told his mother that he'd never forgiven her for what she did to Rose and his plan all along was to ruin her and steal her company. He then revealed that his original plan (before Barbara hired her herself) was for him to hire Carly and replace Barbara with her when the time was right! Although Barbara refused to believe that Paul had lied to her for months, he provided her with proof--a contract he rushed her into signing that made BRO his. However, Paul's victory would turn bittersweet. During the altercation, Barbara seemed to be looking past Paul, and couldn't even grab the contract that he was holding right in front of her. Finally angry and hurt, Barbara rushed out to get away from Paul and tumbled off the walkway. At that moment, Paul made a stunning realization-- Barbara couldn't see! With nothing left to lose, Barbara admitted that she had a brain tumor that was causing periods of blindness; that was why she hired Carly and gave Jordan purchasing power. Her secret out, and the show seemingly cancelled, Barbara checked into the hospital for radiation treatment. Meanwhile, a shocked Paul was left at the office contemplating what he'd done and wondering if his mother's tumor was malignant. Chagrined, he visited her at the hospital, where she surprised him by finally taking responsibility for everything that had happened to Rose. Wanting to put the past behind him, Paul accepted her apology and allowed the fashion show to go on with Barbara in attendance.
Unfortunately, Barbara's life would soon spiral out of control again thanks to James. It was at this point that Barbara and her family learned a shocking secret--Jordan was James's son! Placed in an orphanage at a young age, Jordan had no idea that he was James's son and swore no allegiance to the man. However, to Barbara that didn't matter, since she knew James would never let Jordan (and his own son, Cabot) alone. At this point, Jordan and Jennifer were in love, as were Paul and Jordan's wife, Rosanna Cabot. However, since James had set up the circumstances in which Jordan and Rosanna married, Barbara knew he would stop at nothing to see that his plans for his son weren't derailed, no matter who objected to them. Fearing for her children's safety, Barbara tried to keep the couples apart, but only met with resistance from both Paul and Jennifer. Soon, she went to James for help. Barbara's collusion with James left her vulnerable and later he blackmailed her into helping him escape, or he'd hurt Will. Scared, Barbara agreed. Unfortunately, upon his escape, James kidnapped Rosanna and Cabot and apparently killed Cabot. Her part in James's escape discovered, Barbara was promptly brought up on charges but escaped herself and went to desperate measures to get to Will and she rammed her car directly into the mental hospital where Will was! Now a resident of the hospital, Barbara seemingly had an ally in Will who promised to show her the ropes.
Unbeknownst to Barbara, Will hated her and blamed her partially for the situation that he was in. After days of secret meetings (since Barbara was not permitted to see Will) and pretending to care for his mother, Will finally arranged a chance for them to escape together by providing her with a nurse's uniform and telling him to come to his room at a prearranged time. A trusting Barbara walked right into Will's trap and found herself face to face with her entire family! Soon, security was alerted and Barbara was placed in maximum security after being lashed out by Will who told her exactly how much he hated her. Almost immediately after, Will was declared mentally sound and released from the hospital. Now desperate to get out, Barbara found a potential ally in mental patient, Ric Decker. Noting his attraction to her, Barbara used it to her advantage, and seemed to reciprocate. Although feigning a deep attraction to him, this was just a ruse to use him in order to plan a daring escape. Although the plan appeared to be working, with them able to make a set of keys needed to leave the hospital, their behavior drew the suspicions of a security guard and the pair were separated. However, Barbara and Ric found ways to be together, with Barbara continuing to encourage Ric that they'd run away and be together forever. Although oblivious at first, Ric eventually caught on. On the night of the great escape, Halloween, he confronted Barbara and, realizing he'd been used, he kidnapped her to the Old Mill and tried to murder her. Fortunately, at that moment, Will happened by and saved his mother by knocking Ric unconscious. Realizing that Barbara's life was now in danger at the mental hospital from Ric, Hal and Paul planned to transfer Barbara to jail, however Will unexpectedly argued in Barbara's behalf, asking that she simply be placed on house arrest at Hal's. With Barbara at Hal's, Will decided to stay at Fairwinds with Paul and Rosanna.
Barbara then hatched a diabolical plot to get Will out of Fairwinds and back with her. After procuring a mind-altering drug from the hospital (a drug that increased suggestibility), Barbara proceeded to drug Emily's tea. While Emily was in a drug induced state, Barbara ordered her to sneak into Fairwinds and harass Rosanna by taking Cabot's baby items out of storage and leaving them out for Rosanna to find. Although both Paul and Will initially suspected Barbara, she made it clear that she couldn't have done it since she was under house arrest and wearing an ankle monitor. Although she tried to deny it, Rosanna suspected that it was Will. Then one night, Will came downstairs to see someone in the house carrying Cabot's doll. He confronted the person, only to learn that it was Emily! As Emily ran out, Will was caught red-handed with the doll. Knowing no one would believe him, he kept quiet about Emily and decided to investigate the matter himself. When confronted, Emily could remember nothing, but an investigation by police unearthed evidence that Emily was behind the stalking and she was arrested. Though the evidence proved she was responsible, Emily could not explain her actions or even remember them. Through some prodding by Paul though, she figured out that she may have been drugged by "her good friend" Barbara. In the end, Paul and Emily found evidence of what Barbara had done and she was arrested. Fortunately for her, James intervened and forced Rosanna to get Barbara out of prison. With no choice but to comply, Rosanna confessed that she drugged Emily and set up the stalking herself and Barbara was set free.
A few years later, tragedy struck when Jennifer was stricken ill with pneumonia which proved fatal. Though devastated, Barbara was strong and faced her daughter's death with dignity. Tragedy struck again mere months later when Hal was killed in the line of duty. From that point on, Barbara focused her energies on her sons. To that end, she decided to grant Will and Gwen their fondest wish—a baby. Gwen had learned she was infertile and attempts at invitro fertilization were unsuccessful. At the same time, Gwen’s brother’s girlfriend, Sophie, was expecting a baby who Cole Norbeck wanted no part of. Barbara decided the perfect solution was for Gwen to adopt Sophie’s baby and arranged a deal with Gwen’s mother, Iris, to buy Sophie’s baby. Knowing there was no love lost between Gwen and her brother, Barbara kept the identity of the birth mother a secret. Unfortunately, Alison Stewart noted some similarities between the Munson’s adoption and Sophie’s and went to Barbara. Barbara lied that she would look into the matter and then tried to cover her tracks. Unfortunately, Alison Stewart did some digging around and discovered the truth. She went straight to Will and Gwen who confronted Barbara. Though she denied it at first, she was forced to admit to it but insisted that she acted out of love. Will disowned his mother. In the end, the Munsons did end up adopting Sophie’s baby whom they named Hallie Jennifer. Unfortunately, Will refused to let Barbara attend the christening. In fact, he didn’t want her to be in Hallie’s life at all.
At about this time, Lisa noticed that Barbara seemed to be having difficulty speaking. At Lisa’s suggestion, Barbara consulted her doctor and was horrified to learn that she had oral cancer. Though her doctor told her to tell her family about her condition, Barbara decided to keep it to herself. At this point, Will and Gwen were contending with Sofie, who wanted Hallie back, while Paul had just been injured in a car explosion and Barbara did not want to be a burden on her sons. After weeks of going through radiation alone, Barbara’s secret was discovered by Sofie when Sofie overheard Barbara make an appointment for treatment. At Sofie’s insistence, Barbara, finally, told her family about her condition. Although, Will and Gwen were poised to reconsider their move out of Oakdale, Barbara refused to let them put their lives on hold for her. At this point, Paul invited Barbara to stay with him at Fairwinds. Sofie, who offered to take care of Barbara when Gwen and Will were gone and who had already befriended Paul, spent many hours at the mansion where Barbara discovered Sofie’s talent for jewelry design. Recognizing that Sofie had talent, Barbara and Paul decided to subsidize her new business venture. During this time, Paul and Sofie developed an attraction to each other and, one night, depressed about losing Meg, Paul slept with Sofie.
Although both Barbara and Paul tried to tell Sofie that the fling meant nothing, the girl became obsessed with Paul. Worried about Sofie’s attraction to Paul, Barbara decided that Meg was the better choice and tried to convince Meg to reunite with Paul, and even hired Meg as her private nurse. As Paul and Meg got closer, Sofie’s obsession with Paul went to dangerous heights with her switching Barbara’s medication in an effort to get Meg into trouble. Though she almost died of an overdose, Barbara recovered and witnessed Paul’s proposal to Meg. Soon after being threatened by Barbara, Sofie mysteriously disappeared. Determined that her son be happy, Barbara led Paul and Meg to believe that her health was failing so they would get married ASAP. With only Barbara in attendance, Paul and Meg married near the rose garden at Fairwinds. That night, the police caught Paul transporting Sofie’s lifeless body and he was booked on murder charges. Meg insisted to Barbara that Paul was guilty and implied that he was covering up Barbara’s crime. Barbara denied murdering Sofie and, on her lawyer’s suggestion, enlisted Rick Decker’s help in proving Paul’s innocence. Rick reported that whoever killed Sofie was a professional in the use of needles—leading Barbara to suspect Meg. Not long after, Barbara was visited by Hallie’s father, Cole Norbeck, who informed her that he saw her murder Sofie. Since she had been taking pain medication, Barbara couldn’t dismiss Cole’s claim that she killed Sofie in a drug induced stupor. It soon became clear that the reason Cole wanted money was to support his drug habit. After blackmailing Barbara for money, Cole got desperate and ultimately kidnapped her for ransom. It soon became clear that Cole, s drug user, had killed Sofie. Luckily for Barbara, she got the upper hand and knocked Cole out with his own drugs. Cole escaped but was apprehended by the police.
The following year, Barbara learned shocking news—Henry Coleman was James’ illegitimate son. Shortly after this startling revelation, James was apparently killed and Henry was named heir to the Stenbeck fortune. Since Paul was uninterested in fighting for his inheritance, Barbara took it upon herself to make sure Paul got the inheritance that he deserved. However, Henry later seduced Barbara and then agreed to split the inheritance 50/50. Afterwards, Barbara was almost poisoned by Henry’s mother, Audrey. Luckily, Henry found out what his mother was up to and stopped Barbara from drinking the poison.
Later, the specter of James returned in the form of researcher Mick Dante. The much younger Mick was convinced that he was James Stenbeck. Though Mick tried to convince everyone that James had taken a youth serum developed by Dante, in reality, James had brainwashed Dante. After Dante turned himself in, Paul again declared that he wanted nothing from his father and gave the remainder of his fortune to Henry. Henry and Barbara fell into bed again and soon began relishing in their commitment free affair. However, it didn’t take long for the pair to develop genuine feelings for each other. Unfortunately, Henry was torn between his feelings for Barbara and his newly returned, lover, Vienna. Vienna stunned Henry by proposing to him, and they made love. When Henry told Barbara about it, she dumped him. Though he was seemingly committed to Vienna, Henry kissed Barbara when he learned that she was cancer-free. Afterwards, Barbara discovered that Vienna was trapping Henry into marriage by falsely claiming to be pregnant. Before she had a chance to interrupt the wedding, Barbara was chloroformed and held captive.
Barbara’s captor turned out to be Gwen’s mother, Iris, who demanded bank codes from Barbara, and forced her to write a short note to ask her family to give her time alone. Upon seeing the note, Henry became convinced that Barbara had been kidnapped. Barbara discovered a walkie-talkie and somehow tuned the frequency to Jacob's baby monitor. As she hoped, Henry heard the message when he was babysitting Katie’s baby. Iris then relocated Barbara to the wine cellar at Fairwinds. Emily stumbled upon Barbara in the wine cellar. Iris tied Emily up and insinuated to Will and Gwen that Emily was behind Barbara's disappearance. Later, Henry caught Iris strutting around in Barbara's clothes and deduced that Iris had kidnapped Barbara and Emily. The family smelled smoke at Fairwinds and rescued Emily and Barbara from the cellar. Gwen detained Iris at the Lakeview bar, and the police arrested Iris. Barbara suddenly wanted nothing to do with Henry, who'd chosen Vienna over her, but after a poignant talk with Katie, Barbara accepted Henry's marriage proposal. Henry and Barbara received the cold shoulder when they announced their engagement to her sons, who were opposed to her marrying James Stenbeck's son. Henry withdrew his proposal, but Barbara insisted that genes wouldn't hold them back. When Paul learned that his mother had planned an impromptu wedding, he surprised the couple by gathering the family to witness the union. Later, Barbara decided to dissolve BRO so that she could concentrate on her new life with Henry.