The Girl In The Box

Colleen J. Stan (born December 31, 1956)[ is an American woman who was kidnapped and held as a sex slave by Cameron and Janice Hooker in their Red Bluff, California, home for over seven years between 1977 and 1984. At the trial of her abductor, Stan’s experience was described as unparalleled in FBI history.

On May 19, 1977, Colleen Stan was hitchhiking from her home in Eugene, Oregon, to a friend’s home in northern California, where she was heading to a birthday party. Cameron Hooker (born November 5, 1953) kidnapped 20 year-old Stan after picking her up. Stan stated that she was an experienced hitchhiker and had allowed two rides to go past before accepting the ride with Hooker. She reportedly “felt confident climbing into the blue van”, because Hooker’s wife, Janice, and their baby were in the car. When they stopped at a gas station along the way, Stan went to use the restroom. “A voice told me to run and jump out a window and never look back,” she recalled, but she calmed her fears and went back to the car. According to Stan and Janice Hooker’s testimonies, once they were alone in an isolated area, Hooker pulled off the highway and put a knife to Stan’s throat. She was subsequently locked in a wooden head box which was designed to prevent light, sound and fresh air from entering.

Before this, Cameron and Janice had reached an agreement that he could capture a slave to take to Janice’s place, because up until that time Cameron had been using Janice to act out sexual bondage. There was to be no penetrative sex with Stan according to the agreement, but this later changed. On the first night of her kidnapping, Stan was strung up by her hands and physically attacked by Cameron, being left blindfolded and suspended while the pair had sex below her.

After her kidnapping, Stan stated that she was tortured and kept locked in a box 23 hours a day until she was given a contract and forced to sign herself into slavery for life in January 1978. She further stated that Cameron led her to believe that she was being watched by a large, powerful organization called “The Company” which would painfully torture her and harm her family if she tried to escape. Stan subsequently became a slave referred to as “K”, was forced to call Cameron “Master”, and was not allowed to talk without permission. Cameron reportedly wanted Stan to be like the female character in the 1954 French erotic novelStory of O and soon started raping her, which consisted of oral rape. Cameron did not want to have vaginal sex with Stan because he considered that to be a breach in his agreement with his wife. Instead he raped her vaginally and anally with implements. Following this, the Hooker family moved to a mobile home in Red Bluff with Stan, where she was kept locked in wooden boxes under the couple’s water bed. In 1978, Janice gave birth to a second child on the water bed above Stan.

Stan said that her faith in God and belief of escape helped her survive; her greatest fear was of “The Company”, which Cameron “reinforced” daily. To avoid painful punishments, Stan tried to comply with his commandments, which later led to her being allowed to go out to jog, work in the yard, and care for the family’s children in the mobile home. Even with an open door, neighbors and a telephone, she made no attempt to escape as—according to Stan—her fear of “The Company” kept her from seeking help. Additionally, Stan was allowed to visit her family by herself in 1981 but did not reveal her situation because of her fear and the possible consequences. Her family thought she was involved in a cult because of her homemade clothes, lack of money and absence of communications over the years; they did not want to pressure her fearing she would go away forever. The next day, Stan returned with Hooker as her boyfriend. At the trial Stan explained that she was happy due to visiting her family, who were therefore able to take a photograph of the pair happily smiling together.

According to Stan, Hooker feared he had given his slave too much freedom and took her back to his mobile home where he locked her in the wooden box under his water bed; she remained in the box 23 hours a day for the next three years. Bodily functions were dealt with by her using a bed pan which she hooked under herself with her feet. It was stated in court that Hookers’ children were told “K” had gone home; however, after the children had gone to bed, Hooker took Colleen out of the box to feed and torture her. She was reportedly not allowed to make any noise and had to lie still 23 hours long at a time in the dark with little air to breathe. In summer, conditions were especially harsh on her as the temperatures would swelter to over 100 degrees in her box. To feed herself, she ate cold scraps of food.

Escape and trial

It was not until 1983 that Stan was reintroduced to the children and neighbors, with her being also allowed to get a job as a maid at a motel. Hooker wanted Stan to become his second wife, which was a turning point for Janice. Janice confessed that—starting with their first date—she had also been tortured, brainwashed and referred to as a whore over the years by Cameron. Janice further stated that she survived their relationship with denial and compartmentalization. By August 1984, Janice began struggling with herself, and also went to Stan in order to inform her that Hooker was not part of “The Company”. However, she did maintain that the organization did exist. In a televised interview for Girl in the Box, Stan told the interviewer that she then went to a bus station and called Hooker to inform him that she was leaving him, and that he reacted by bursting into tears; Stan subsequently caught a bus home. In the months that followed, she did not contact the police but continued to call Hooker regularly; she explained this at the trial by saying that she wanted to give Hooker, at Janice’s request, a chance to reform. Three months later, Janice reported her husband to the police. She informed Lt. Jerry D. Brown of the Red Bluff Police that Cameron had kidnapped, tortured, and murdered Marie Elizabeth Spannhake, who had disappeared in 1976. Authorities were unable to locate the remains of the woman. Due to the lack of physical proof, no murder charge was brought.

Cameron Hooker On Trial

Chris Hatcher, a forensic psychologist and criminal profiler, testified for Cameron’s prosecution at the start of the 1985 trial, and Janice testified against her husband in exchange for full immunity. In the end, her husband was sentenced to consecutive terms—for sexual assaults, kidnapping and for using a knife in the process—for a total of 104 years of imprisonment. Originally not eligible for parole until 2023, he had his hearing date moved up seven years to 2015 by California’s Elderly Parole Program. On April 16, 2015, Hooker’s request for parole was denied, with him being eligible for another hearing in 2022.[

Colleen Stan suffered chronic back and shoulder pain as a result of her confinement. When she returned home, she received extensive therapy, eventually marrying and having a daughter of her own. She joined an organization committed to helping abused women and earned a degree in accounting.

In regards to her resilience during those excruciating years in captivity, Stan told reporters, “I learned I could go anywhere in my mind.” In a similar vein to Janice’s compartmentalization, Stan said, “You just remove yourself from the real situation going on and you go somewhere else.”