Colleen J. Stan
December 31, 1956
Eugene, Oregon, U.S.
|Known for||Kidnapping survivor|
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 Cameron Hooker's trial, Stan's experience was described as unparalleled in FBI history.
Her case has received international publicity, and has been the subject of multiple books, films, and television series.
In 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, Hooker, then a lumber mill worker (at Diamond International Lumber Mill), and Janice had reached an agreement that he could capture a slave to take 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, physically attacked by Cameron, and 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. In view from the box, propped up against her purse under the bed, was a photo of Marie Elizabeth Spannhake, a previous victim whose body was never found. 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 novel, Story 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 in a chance of escape helped her survive; her greatest fear was "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, care for the family's children in the mobile home, and help him build bigger accommodations — like an underground dungeon — for more slaves. 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 due to her fear of 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 stay away forever. The next day, Stan returned for a second visit, with Hooker posing as her boyfriend. At the trial, Stan explained that she was happy about visiting her family, who were therefore able to take a photograph of her and Cameron 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 positioned under herself with her feet. It was stated in court that Hooker's children were told "K" had gone home; however, once his children had gone to bed, Hooker would take Stan 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 at a time in the dark, with little air to breathe. During the summers, conditions were especially harsh on her, as the temperature in her box would rise to over 100 °F (38 °C). To feed herself, she ate scraps of food.
It was not until 1983 that Stan was reintroduced to the children and neighbors; she was 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 by engaging in denial and compartmentalization. By August 1984, Janice began struggling with herself and went to Stan, in order to inform her that Hooker was not part of "The Company". However, she maintained 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 phoned 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 on January 31, 1976. Authorities were unable to locate the remains of the woman. Due to the lack of physical proof, no murder charge was brought.
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, Hooker was sentenced to consecutive prison terms totaling 104 years for sexual assaults, kidnapping, and using a knife in the process. Originally ineligible 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, his request for parole was denied, and Hooker will be eligible for another hearing in 2030. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, California officials contacted Stan and advised her that they were looking into possibly granting Hooker parole in March 2021.
After the trial, Stan studied for an accounting degree and, as reported by Mara Bovsun in a March 9, 2014 New York Daily News article, "tried to move on to a normal life, but misery followed her — a string of failed marriages and a troubled child, now in jail." Stan also joined and volunteered for Redding Women's Refuge Center, an organization to help abused women. Janice reverted to her maiden name, Lashley, became a registered associate social worker and has worked as a mental health professional. Stan has changed her last name; both Janice and Stan continue to live in California. They do not communicate with each other.
The main plot of the American documentary-style horror film, The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007), was based on this case.
On September 10, 2016, a television movie based on the case, titled Girl in the Box, premiered on Lifetime starring Addison Timlin as Colleen Stan, Zane Holtz as Cameron Hooker, and Zelda Williams as Janice Hooker. The movie was followed by a two-hour documentary called Colleen Stan: Girl in the Box.
The case is documented in the book Perfect Victim: The True Story of the Girl in the Box (1989), by prosecutor Christine McGuire and Carla Norton, and referenced in Kathy Reichs' novel Monday Mourning (2004). An updated version of Stan's story, Colleen Stan, The Simple Gifts of Life by Jim Green, was published in 2009.
The 1990 song “Girl in a Box” by alternative band Blake Babies is based on this case.
In 1996, the American rock band Elysian Fields released a song titled "Jack in the Box" for their debut studio album, Bleed Your Cedar, which was made available for purchase that same year. Its lyrical content delves into Stan's experience of being imprisoned by Cameron in the box under the bed he shared with his wife, and alludes to the power he had over her. The case inspired the name for Richard Ramirez's Texas experimental noise group Black Leather Jesus.
In 2012, a short opera piece composed by Patrik Jarlestam and Jonas Bernander was based on the kidnapping, and premiered in Stockholm, Sweden under the name of Den 4444:e dagen (The 4444th day).
The case, and its core elements of an invisible conspiracy used to coerce the victim into servitude and long periods of confinement, have formed the basis for several episodes of television crime series, including Criminal Minds (episode "The Company", season seven), Ghost Whisperer (episode "Ball & Chain", season four), and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (episode "Slaves", season one). It was also profiled in the 2008 episode "Kidnapped" of the Investigation Discovery series Wicked Attraction. "The Apartment", a 2012 episode of the SyFy series Paranormal Witness, told the story of the disappearance of Marie Spannhake, and includes a cameo mention of Stan's kidnapping. The case was also mentioned in passing during an episode of Waking the Dead (episode "Fugue States", part 1, season 4).
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