Raped, Tortured, And Locked In A Coffin For Seven Years: The True Story Of Colleen Stan

Colleen Stan was a 20-year-old hitchhiking to a friend’s birthday party near Red Bluff, California, in 1977 when she was picked up by a young couple in a blue van. Since they had a child in the backseat, Stan thought that they seemed “safe.” But the couple’s sweet and innocent appearance hid a dark reality: The husband, Cameron Hooker, was a sadist with plans to abduct Stan to serve as his personal sex slave.

He put a knife to Stan’s throat before taking her to an isolated location, where he raped and tortured her — but that horror was just beginning. Hooker constructed a coffin-sized box, and forced Stan to climb in before sliding it under the bed — where she would stay for the next seven years.

Stan, whose gave an intimate, first-person interview to Investigation Discovery for the upcoming documentary Bound in a Box: The True Story of Colleen Stan, described the abuse that Hooker subjected her to, including subjecting her to such torture as beating her with whips, electro-shocking her, and burning her. He renamed her “K“, and told her that he worked for a powerful organization called “The Company” that would punish her if she disobeyed.

His wife Jan was complicit in the abuse, and referred to Stan as a “piece of furniture.”

She kind of treated me like I was having an affair with her husband. They had no qualms about hurting me,” Stan said. “He had finished building this coffin-sized box; put chains around my neck; run the chains down my body. He had put a blower that would blow in air. 

And then he would keep me in there for like 22, 23 hours a day. It was just absolutely pitch-black in this box. Totally dark. I had claustrophobia so terribly bad. I would get really anxious and focus on being locked up in the box and listening to that fan next to my head just going on and on and on, just feeling like I was going to lose my mind.”

Red Bluff Police Department Lt. Jerry Brown, at a Red Bluff news conference Tuesday, Nov. 27, 1984, shows a head restraining device found at the home of Cameron Hooker (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski)

Red Bluff Police Department Lt. Jerry Brown, at a Red Bluff news conference Tuesday, Nov. 27, 1984, shows a head restraining device found at the home of Cameron Hooker (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski)

Hooker wrote up a contract for Stan that “basically said that he owned me body and soul,” according to CBS News. She was forced to work, watching the children while the couple worked, and preparing their children’s meals. Indeed, she was shocked and confused by the fact that the couple was able to combine her torture with loving parenting. “I never saw him or his wife be anything but loving or caring to their daughter,” she said.

Hooker would torture and rape her before having what he referred to as “cuddle time“, where he would tell Stan that he loved her and that everything was going to be okay. “I couldn’t comprehend how someone could love someone and hurt them the way that he hurt me,” she said.

BOUND IN A BOX: THE TRUE STORY OF COLLEEN STAN premieres Saturday, September 10 at 5/4c. Watch the full episode online with ID GO. 

Over the next several years, Stan became totally brainwashed. At one point, Hooker handed her a gun. To test her loyalty, he told her to put it in her mouth and pull the trigger — and she obeyed. Luckily for Stan, no bullet was discharged, although she said that if she had ended up killing herself, she wouldn’t have cared.

Shockingly, after 3 years and 10 months in captivity, in 1981 Hooker took her home for a visit with her family and left them with her overnight. Not only did she say nothing about the abuse — at one point, even posing for a photo with Hooker when he came to pick her up — she went back again the next day to live in the box for another three and a half years. Stan explained that Hooker had warned her that, if she said a word about what was going on, his “men” would storm into the house and kill her parents and her and anyone inside the instant she opened her mouth.

Stan lived in that box for another three and a half years, during which her stints in the box were interrupted by occasional acts of kindness by the couple, including baking her a cake for her birthday and giving her a Bible inscribed with their names. This is when, according to Stan, “things began to change.”

Cameron Hooker listens to Superior Court Judge Clarence Knight as he is sentenced to 104 years in prison at his trial in Redwood City, CA, on November 22, 1985. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Cameron Hooker listens to Superior Court Judge Clarence Knight as he is sentenced to 104 years in prison at his trial in Redwood City, CA, on November 22, 1985. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

She and Jan began studying the Bible together, which Stan believes helped the woman to humanize her. Hooker had plans to abduct more women, and told Stan that she would have to help him “train” them.

Eventually, Jan confessed to Colleen that her husband did not really work for “The Company” and she went to the authorities at the behest of her minister. Jan informed the Red Bluff Police that Hooker had kidnapped, tortured, and murdered Marie Elizabeth Spannhake, who had disappeared in 1976, but authorities were unable to locate her remains. Hooker was eventually tried and sentenced to a total of 104 years in prison.

Jan was never prosecuted due to the theory that she too had been abused and was scared to death of her husband.

Colleen now works as an advocate for abused women.

BOUND IN A BOX: THE TRUE STORY OF COLLEEN STAN premieres Saturday, September 10 at 5/4c. Watch the full episode online with ID GO. 

Read more:

CBS News

Main image: Colleen Stan [Investigation Discovery (screenshot)]


  • The_Original

    I read a book about this incident years ago. It is a horrifying story.

    • Me too. I read one in the 80’s.. soon after the story broke. I’ve searched, but I can’t find that book or even the title now.

      • Tara Wade

        The book you’re referring to is called Perfect Victim: The True Story of the Girl in the Box by prosecutors Christine McGuire and Carla Norton (1989). A truly terrifying read.

  • Jessie Jean

    im very confused and excuse me if I sound ignorant but, when they left for work and she was just watching the kids why couldnt she just escape in any way? if doors and windows were pinned and locked, get ANYTHING to smash it open and leave to police… then police could have protected her, witness protection program so his “men” couldnt find her family……… I guess she didn’t think of that at the time? She could have minipulated them into thinking she wouldnt escape then did so..

    • Tati

      I saw the movie on lifetime… He told her of a story about when another slave escaped. He said she went to the police but then found out that the police were apart of the company also so they took her back to her master’s house, cut off her legs and arms, tied her to the bed by her neck and beat her so bad they had to feed her through a tube… Thats why she didn’t escape… He made it seem as though people who she may think she could trust were apart of the company also

      • syykkogrl

        I wouldn’t use the Lifetime movie as a reference, personally, as we all know that details are altered for dramatic effect, and while it is close to actual events, it’s not necessarily accurate as it was not an actual documentary, but a “depiction” of events. Having said that, accounts given by Colleen herself in various books, articles, and actual documentaries go into great detail about the way that Cameron Hooker broke her down to something not even human anymore, and gained complete control of her psyche. He studied how to effectively do this to her, and used any and every technique he had learned to ensure that she would be a “good slave”. He did have her believing that some group of men that he called “The Company” would sprint into action if she ever breathed a word to anyone about what was actually happening, and often used a picture of her sister to reinforce to her that either he, or “the company”, would be able to easily find and identify her family. Any identification, pictures, or other personal information in her bag she’d carried on her trip, he had in his possession, so he would make comments about her sister living with her parents in her hometown, on the specific street where she’d lived to reiterate to her that she, and her family, could be tracked down rather easily. What you also have to keep in mind is that when you are a victim of abuse, you begin to lose yourself little by little over time. When the abuser specifically intends to take control over you, as Hooker intended with Colleen, he strips you of any semblance of dignity or humanity, making it harder to fight for yourself. One thing a person never loses, though, is the drive to protect their loved ones from the same fate. I can tell you from experience that a person is much more likely to bend to these threats to protect her mother, or her sister. In a way, THAT, in itself, is a shred of power, or control, that you still have over some part of your own life. You can save them from the pain you are already too familiar with. If your only concern is that YOU may be killed, it’s a lot easier to rationalize taking the risk. At that point, you’re only risking your own life and safety. It’s completely different fearing for the safety of those you love when you know that simply doing as you are told will save them because you’re already stuck, and feel there’s no point in risking that they’ll suffer the same fate…if that makes sense.

        Anyway…not refuting anything you said, just clarifying, I guess. Sorry for going off on a tangent, tho! 🙂

        • I read the book, have seen interviews with her, and saw the Lifetime movie. Lifetime did a good job with the story.

    • Orinthia Strickland

      Because he had her believing that even some police were part of “The Company”..

      • Read the book. Put yourself in her shoes. Have a heart. This could have happened to you.

        • Cole Bartiromo

          No, it can only happen to weak minds. That’s a fact.

          • K. Kelly

            You’re disgusting. I think you will pay for that judgement one day. Walk in the shoes of someone you have callously judged.

          • The weak mind in this convo is the one who made this ignorant and insensitive comment.

          • Daniel Michael Lynem Sr.

            I agree, that’s why she got the label “The Perfect Victim”… She was very weak minded and extremely gullible. I’m not being mean. I sympathize and my heart really goes out to her. But a stronger willed person would have, at the first opportunity, taken a knife, club or whatever, and taken this guy’s life. Instead of being played, they would have won the mind game, suckered him into believing she was weak, brainwashed, and submissive and then… turned the tables…. Just saying. I’m glad she survived to tell the story. And this evil sick excuse for a human is behind bars. His wife should be locked up with him.

          • FranKnows

            Spoken like someone that has absolutely no idea the psychological trauma someone in her position goes through. By the time she was put in a position to ‘make a run’ she had been tortured, beaten and locked in a box for years. I suppose you think Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart were also weak minded?

    • Raya Lo Zelle

      Stockholm syndrome

    • mahalo2011

      He picked a victim who wasn’t very bright. Then again, that quality may have saved her life in the initial weeks and months.

      • You insensitive, impudent, irresponsible, fool.

    • Tiger Blood

      The first girl tried to escape and they have never found her body. I think this girl was very strong and smart to get through it.

  • Darren Worthington

    The Death Penalty should have been given to this guy although practically speaking, life in prison is the same because they execute very, very few people who have been sentenced for that. But this poor woman will be messed up for her entire life, but hopefully she can still find some happiness over time.

  • Barbara Joy Buchanan

    Imagine being locked in a box under the bed they were sleeping on. The psychological tether that this guy had on her was amazing. Also, Jessie Jean if you had been told that your parents would be killed if you mentioned anything wouldn’t you do as you were told. Have you also ever heard of Stockholm Syndrome?

    • thehound

      Bullshit……women like her are sheep plain and simple and invite the abuse against themselves…..so….7+ years (SEVEN!!!) and it never dawned on her to make a move or call anyone…the media, the FBI, etc???…..The “company” controlled them too right?…..Not for nothing but this woman seemed like an an idiot and made herself the perfect “victim” for not standing up at some point and ending her captivity.

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  • mahalo2011

    The guy was a monster, but he found the perfect victim, a complete moron who would believe all that nonsense about “the company” and not run away like a normal person as soon as she had a chance.

    • You obviously have never found yourself in a life or death situation. And you quite obviously have zero empathy.
      Read a book. Learn something about how people are brainwashed exactly as this young lady was. And it still happens in these times.
      “normal person”? She WAS a normal person. He took that from her.

  • Jared T Raitor

    This is why you liberals need to grow up and realize we need to build that wall and keep all these illegal animals out of…………………oh wait! Um, well ah, well hillary something or other and maybe even a ben ghazi comment. OOPS!

  • Daniel Michael Lynem Sr.

    I’m not being mean or unsympathetic.. my heart really goes out to her. I feel deeply for what she went through. No human being should go through what she endured. The fact she survived is a testimony of her will to live. But there’s a reason she got the label “The Perfect Victim”… because she was. She was very weak minded and extremely gullible. But a stronger willed person would have, at the first opportunity, taken a knife, club or whatever, and taken this guy’s life. Instead of being played, she would have won the mind game, suckered him into believing she was weak, brainwashed, and submissive and then… turned the tables…. Just saying. I’m glad she survived to tell the story. And this guy is behind bars where he should be. But this is also a great testimony of the power of God’s Living Word(Heb chapter 4 to move the heart of the wife

  • Daniel Michael Lynem Sr.

    I’m not being mean or unsympathetic.. my heart really goes out to her. I feel deeply for what she went through. No human being should go through what she endured. The fact she survived is a testimony of her will to live. But there’s a reason she got the label “The Perfect Victim”… because she was. She was very weak minded and extremely gullible. But a stronger willed person would have, at the first opportunity, taken a knife, club or whatever, and taken this guy’s life. Instead of being played, she would have won the mind game, suckered him into believing she was weak, brainwashed, and submissive and then… turned the tables…. Just saying. I’m glad she survived to tell the story. And this guy is behind bars where he should be. But this is also a great testimony of the power of God’s “Living” and “Most Powerful” Word(Heb 4:12-13) to move the heart of the wife, and God who is rich in Mercy, used her captor, to set her free…. Amazing!

  • Dinty Moore

    I use to live in that town (Red Bluff) it’s a very scary place. The corruption is at every level.