Now known as "the girl in the box," Colleen Stan's choice to hitchhike led to seven years of excruciating captivity.
In 1977, 20-year-old Colleen Stan was hitchhiking from her hometown of Eugene, Ore. to northern California. She considered herself an expert hitchhiker and on that day in May she had already turned down two rides.
However, when a blue van pulled over in Red Bluff, Calif., Stan saw that it was being driven by a man, who had his wife was in the passenger seat and a baby in the backseat. Deeming the young couple and their child a safe family, Stan accepted the ride.
Sadly, she didn’t know what she was in for. This family was anything but safe.
The capture of Colleen Stan
The man was 23-year-old Cameron Hooker and his wife was 19-year-old Janice Hooker. As it turned out, they had been actively looking for a hitchhiker to kidnap. Cameron, a lumber mill worker, had intense bondage fantasies. Until they captured Stan, he had been using his wife Janice to fulfill these fantasies.
Shortly after Stan got into the van, Cameron veered off the road and into a remote area. That’s when he held a knife to her neck and forced her into a ‘head box’ that weighed 20 pounds. The box, which only confined her head, blocked out sound and light around her and prevented the flow of fresh air.
The car eventually drove to a house where Stan was led downstairs to a cellar and subjected to horrifying forms of torture. She was tied to the ceiling by her wrists and then beaten, electrocuted, whipped, and burned.
Initially, the demented couple had an agreement that concluded Cameron wasn’t allowed to engage in sexual activity with Stan. Instead, she was forced to watch the couple have sex after they abused her. Later on, this agreement would change, and Cameron started incorporating rape into his forms of torture.
“The girl in the box”
When the family moved to a mobile home, Stan was kept in a coffin-like wooden box underneath the Hookers’ bed for up to 23 hours a day (hence Stan now being known as “the girl in the box”). The couple had two young daughters who didn’t realize Stan was being kept against her will and didn’t even know that she was living in the house. For an hour or two a day, “the girl in the box” would clean and babysit the children.
“Anytime I was taken out of the box, I never knew what to expect. Fear of the unknown was always with me as I was kept in the dark both physically and mentally,” said Stan.
Although she was subjected to regular beatings and rape, Stan didn’t consider her torture to be the worst aspect of her confinement. What terrified her even more was Cameron’s claim that he was a member of a satanic organization called the “The Company.” She was told that The Company was a powerful organization who watched over her and had her family’s home bugged.
More than anything, Stan feared an escape attempt would cause The Company to harm her family. So “the girl in the box” remained in captivity, and even signed a contract stating that she was their slave.
By complying with Cameron and his wishes, Stan continuously earned more and more freedom. She was allowed to work in the garden and go for jogs. She was even allowed to visit her family; Cameron accompanied her and she said he was her boyfriend. Her family took a happy-looking photograph of the pair, but her lack of communication and money made them believe she was in a cult. However, they didn’t want to pressure her as they were scared it would cause her to disappear for good.
Stan’s fear of The Company stopped her from escaping or revealing any information to her family.
Colleen Stan was kept captive for seven years, from 1977 to 1984. Towards the end of that seven-year span, Cameron stated that he wanted Stan as a second wife. This didn’t bode well for Janice Hooker.
Janice had confessed that Cameron tortured and brainwashed her since they first starting dating each other and that she had developed denial techniques and compartmentalized that aspect of her life.
After this turning point, Janice revealed to Stan that Cameron was not part of The Company and helped her to escape. In the beginning, Janice asked Stan not to say anything, convinced that her husband could be rehabilitated. When she realized he was unsavable, Janice reported her husband to the police.
Escape and justice
Cameron Hooker was charged with sexual assault and kidnapping using a knife. At the trial, Janice testified against him for full immunity. Colleen Stan’s experience was described as “unparalleled in FBI history.”
Cameron Hooker was found guilty and given consecutive terms, totaling a 104-year sentence. In 2015, he was denied parole. It will be a minimum of 15 more years before he’s eligible for parole again.
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.
Colleen Stan and Janice Hooker both changed their names and continued to reside in California. However, they do not communicate with one another.
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.”
A TV film of Stan’s story called The Girl in the Box was made in 2016.
After this look at Colleen Stan, “the girl in the box,” read the horrifying story of James Jameson, the man who bought a girl to watch her be eaten by a cannibal. Then learn about David Parker Ray, the “toy box killer.”