The Colleen Stan Case

This case has infamously become known as "The Girl in the Box" case.  It is the story of 20 year old Colleen Stan who was kidnapped by Cameron and Janice Hooker on May 19, 1977 near Red Bluff California and was not set free until 1985.

Colleen was hitchhiking from her home in Oregon to Red Bluff, California... about 450 miles away.  Today that may seem unusual but in the 1970's it was rather common especially in the far Northwest part of the country.  There had been some major crimes associated with hitchhiking already but for the most part it was believed to be safe.  As she was hitchhiking the first car that pulled over was full of young men and Colleen did not feel like that would have been a safe so she turned it down.  The next car that stopped was a young couple, close to Colleen's age, with a baby. Unlike the car full of young men Colleen thought one could not get much safer than with a couple with a baby and got in.  After driving for a bit they stopped at a gas station where Colleen used the bathroom.  When Colleen returned to the car there was a strange wooden box sitting on the back seat next to her seat.  They returned to the highway for a bit before Cameron Hooker asked Colleen if she minded if they went to see some "ice caves" that were in the area.  Trying not to sound ungrateful for the ride, and knowing it was was still faster than walking she agreed.  After a while Cameron turned onto a rather deserted road.  After a while he pulled over and his wife Janice, holding the baby got out of the car.  At this point Colleen was beginning to feel uneasy but it was too late.  As Janice walked further from the car, Cameron also got out but he went to the back where Colleen was and while holding a knife to her neck forced her to put the wood box that was next to her on her head.  Eventually Janice returned to the car and they left the area.  Cameron and Janice waited until dark and then went to their home in Red Bluff where they led Colleen first into the house, and then into the basement.

Once inside the basement the head box was removed and she was placed in another box.  For the next few weeks she was alternately taken from the box and sometimes chained to the ceiling by straps and beaten.  After a few months a small room was built inside the basement in which she was kept.  Alternately she would see both Cameron and Janice but it was Cameron who did most of the torture.

Cameron had been reading magazines and studying issues such as bondage and sadism. Early in his relationship with Janice he had practiced some of these things with her.  She consented but experts have argued that she only did so because she was a "mousy" girl who had not received much attention from the opposite sex. After they had married she then consented to him having a "slave" for the torture and bondage. She consented on the grounds that he was never to have sex with the slave and that he eased up on the torture and bondage to her.

After Colleen had been in the small room for a while Cameron and Janice they came to her with a slave contract.  Cameron had found it in one of the many magazines that he subscribed to.  When Cameron showed it to her, he explained that he had paid $1,500 to "the company" to gain ownership of her and that by her agreement she would be safe from the company taking her.  She was told that if she did not sign the contract that the company had the right to come and possess her and sell her to whomever they pleased or use her to whatever their needs would be indicating that while the situation she was already in may not have been ideal but what she could face would be extremely worse.  Within the contract she was to obey both Cameron and Janice in every way and refer to him as "Sir."  She was also told that "the company" was everywhere and would always be watching to ensure to complied to the contract at all times. She signed. Once Cameron was sure that Colleen was conditioned he began giving her freedoms with tests.  For instance, she was allowed out of the basement to clean house but when Cameron indicated she was to immediately stop what she was doing, strip naked and stand in a doorway with her arms lifted.  It was things like this that Cameron did to ensure Colleen's cooperation.

About 8 months after her capture Cameron and Janice decided to no longer rent their house and bought a semi-secluded mobile home trailer.  Since there was not a basement in which to keep Colleen in prior to moving in Cameron built a base for under his and Janice's waterbed in which there was a door at the end so Colleen could crawl inside.  There was a lock on the outside of the small door.  For a long while Colleen was only allowed out of the box to eat, be tortured or help Cameron or Janice do things around the home.  At one point Cameron was letting her out to help him dig a dungeon under a shed in the back yard.  His intention was not only to keep Colleen there but he had planned to get more slaves and keep them there also.  The dungeon started out small but he had planned to expand it.  This idea did not last long as it flooded easily and was not functional.

Not long after realizing that the dungeon was not functional Cameron came up with a new idea.  By this time, around 1981 he had come to believe, rightfully so, that Colleen completely believed in "the company" and the contract and was completely under his control so he had little fear of her trying to get away.  For most of that year Colleen was allowed out of the box.  During the day she watched their children while they worked (by now they had two young girls); she cooked and cleaned around the home and seemingly became a normal member of the family.  The torture was less frequent but she knew she was still under their control and at night she would be chained in a bathroom, which obviously was better than being in the small box.  They even took her to visit family and other places with them.  Anyone who met her was told she was the live in Nanny.  From time to time she was allowed to go on walks or bike rides in the neighborhood.  Of course Cameron had reminded her that "the company" was always watching  and she was convinced that some of the neighbors were members so she did not dare do anything she was not supposed to. By now she was known as "Kay" to everyone.  Her "actual" name was "K" as per the slave contract but no one ever said anything. At one point during this time Cameron even allowed Colleen to call her family but of course she was not to say where she was or who she was with.

Then one morning one of the girls got up before either Cameron and Janice and needed to use the bathroom and found Colleen there.  They were now getting old enough to notice things and talk.  All the little girl wanted was breakfast and she couldn't understand how every morning Colleen made it but could not right then that morning.  Between this and issues that were increasing between Janice and Colleen things were going to have to change.  Janice and Colleen had never truly gotten along and it's widely believed that most of that was due to Janice's jealousy of Colleen, be it her youth, her position with her husband and the fact that her children were so close to her.  So, Cameron had a new plan.  He let's Colleen know that he was going to talk to "the company" and he was going to take her the nearly 300 miles south to visit her family. Before she left Red Bluff she was to tell the children, as well as any neighbors that she had become friendly with that she was moving back home and say goodbye.  Of course there were rules such as she was not to tell them where she had been, his real name, anything that had gone on...etc.  To ensure that she would comply first on the way there he stopped somewhere and went inside a building.  When he came out he had some paperwork and a "pass" of some sort. He told her she was "lucky" that "the company" did not want to see her and drill her on what she was and was not allowed to do and that this pass allowed her to see her parents.  He then told her again how "the company" would be watching to make sure she complied and thirdly she led her to believe that the lives of her family would be in danger if she did not follow the rules.  She was to tell her family he was her finance' and all but leave it at that.  Initially she was to have 24 hours with them but Cameron abruptly cut that time by several hours and they were headed back to Red Bluff.

Once there Cameron sneaked Colleen back into the mobile home and for nearly the next three years she was kept in her box under the bed nearly full time.  She was let out once or twice a week late at night for showers and sometimes to eat.  Otherwise she ate and used the bed pan provided in the box.  Then in early 1984 they started allowing her out of the box again.  And, this time they even allowed her to get a job at a local motel as a maid. Still, Colleen told no one.  It was during this time that Janice had truly began struggling with what was going on and had started going to church.  Cameron even allowed Colleen to attend and it became a bonding issue between Colleen and Janice.  One morning Janice went and spoke to her minister about the things that had gone on and he encouraged her to to tell Colleen.  Janice went to the motel and talked to Colleen and informed her that "the company" did not, and had not ever existed.  The ladies then came up with a plan on how to get out of the home.  The next morning after Cameron left for work the two women and the children packed their things and went to Janice's parents' home.  From there, the next morning Colleen got on a bus and went back to her family.  It was her intention not to tell the police or anyone.  However, the minister had convinced Janice differently and the police and prosecutor became involved.

A short time after this Janice returned to Cameron for a short time and she hindered the police and prosecution by being "wishy washy" in her story and retracting things. Cameron had ordered Janice to destroy all evidence of things concerning Colleen.   However, in the end with search warrants they were able to find enough evidence to file charges, including a copy of the slave contract that was missed when things were destroyed.

The prosecution had their hands full.  First they had an eye witness who not only kept attempting to change her story, but was also compliant as she had helped kidnap as well as keep Colleen captive.  Janice had gone along with the story of "the company" which in essence was what kept Colleen there.  She had not told anyone, anything for over 7 years. Then there was the issue of trying to explain to the jury how Colleen had basically been "free" for a full year in 1981, had been allowed to call her family twice, had even gotten to visit her family and in the end was not only able to have a job but was allowed to ride a bike back and forth to the job, yet still told no one what was going on or tried to escape.  Another problem for the prosecution was that Colleen seemed very unemotional when telling the story. They needed the jury to believe her story and be sympathetic to her if they were going to get anywhere in pressing charges.

One of the first things that the prosecution did, that still to some left a bad taste, was make a deal with Janice that offered her full immunity against charges.  Many psychologist believe that Janice was much like Colleen in her programming by Cameron, just in different ways.  Among the evidence they had found in the home were pictures of Janice being chained in much the same way Colleen had described so they had evidence that at least on some occasions Cameron had done this to Janice also and that she was under his control.  As the saying goes "but for" Cameron, Janice would have never been involved in something like this. A few of the reasons the prosecution agreed to this was so that they felt they got the true story if Janice knew she would not face charges herself, as well as the fact that Janice could raise her two daughters, which was a concern for her.  As far as Colleen and her seemingly unemotional state, the prosecution brought in experts to explain this to the jury. In essence she had been "stunted" emotionally.  She had been conditioned for so many years and suppressed emotions that it was not something that was going to change quickly.

In the end Cameron was convicted in 1985 and was sentenced to 104 years in prison.  He is eligible for parole in 2022.


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