true crime

The chilling true story of Colleen Stan, the woman held captive in a box for seven years.

When Colleen Stan – a seasoned hitchhiker – accepted a ride with a young family in 1977, she could never have imagined the horror in store for her.

Horror she would endure seven years.

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Colleen’s ordeal led her to become known as “The Girl in the Box” – a horrific true crime story turned Lifetime film about about a young girl forced to live in a coffin-sized box for seven years and act as a deranged couple’s slave.

This was what lay ahead for the 20-year-old Colleen after she hopped in the car with Cameron Hooker, 23, and his 19-year-old wife Janice.

Colleen was hitchhiking from her hometown of Eugene, Oregon to northern California. She considered herself an expert hitchhiker and had already turned down two rides that day.

But when a blue van pulled over in Red Bluff, California, Colleen spotted a baby in the backseat, deeming the Hookers a safe family to ride with.

This family was anything but safe.

As it transpired, the couple had been actively looking for a hitchhiker to kidnap and torture. Cameron, a lumber mill worker, had intense bondage fantasies – fantasies he had used his wife Janice to fulfil until Colleen hailed them down.

Shortly after Colleen got into the van, Cameron veered off the road into a remote area. He held a knife to her neck and forced her into a ‘head box’ that weighed 20 pounds. The box blocked out sound and light around her and prevented the flow of fresh air.

When the car stopped, Colleen was led into a house and downstairs to her torture chamber. She was tied to the ceiling by her wrists and beaten, electrocuted, whipped, and burned.

The twisted couple had made a prior arrangement that Cameron wasn’t allowed to have sex with Colleen, she was instead forced to watch the couple have sex after they abused her.

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As time went by, the agreement changed, and Cameron started incorporating rape into his forms of torture.

The family eventually moved to a mobile home, Colleen in tow. Here, she was kept in a coffin-like wooden box underneath the Hookers’ bed for up to 23 hours a day.

In a chilling twist, the couple’s two young daughters had no idea Colleen lived with them, let alone in a box beneath their parent’s bed. They thought Colleen was the family cleaner and babysitter.

“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,” Colleen later said in an interview with People in 2016.

Colleen Stan is now 61 and living in California. Image: Youtube.

“I learned I could go anywhere in my mind,” she said. “You just remove yourself from the real situation going on and you go somewhere else. You go somewhere pleasant, around people you love. Whatever makes you happy.”

In other interviews, Colleen said she didn’t consider the constant beatings and rape the worst aspect of her confinement. It was Cameron’s terrifying claim that he was a member of a satanic organisation called the “The Company", a powerful collective who were constantly watching over her and had her family’s home bugged.

Colleen feared that if she attempted to escape The Company would harm her family. So she remained “the girl in the box” for seven years, signing a contract stating that she was their slave.

After signing the contract, she was increasingly given more freedom. With Cameron by her side, she was allowed to visit her family; under the guise he was her boyfriend. Her family even took a deceptively happy-looking photograph of them together. Colleen would later learn they believed she was in a cult, but didn’t want to pressure her as they were scared they would push her further away.

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After years living with the Hooker family against her will, crippled by fear of the fictitious "Company", Cameron declared he wanted to make Colleen his second wife. This is what caused his first wife, Janice, to finally come to her senses.

She confessed that Cameron tortured and brainwashed her since they first met, finally admitting to Colleen that The Company did not exist. In 1984, she helped Colleen escape, and reported her husband to police.

Cameron Hooker is serving 104 years in prison. Image: Youtube.

At trial, Cameron Hooker was found guilty of sexual assault and kidnapping using a knife and given consecutive terms, totalling a 104-year sentence. In 2015, he was denied parole and won't be eligible again for 15 more years. Janice testified against him for full immunity, and now lives in California under a different name.

As for Colleen Stan - the "Girl in the Box", her experience was described as “unparalleled in FBI history".

She suffered chronic back and shoulder pain as a result of her confinement and required extensive therapy, eventually marrying and having a daughter of her own.

She too changed her name and lives in California. But she is not in contact with Janice Hooker.

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