The Girl In The Box

This one-off documentary tells the disturbing true story of a bizarre kidnapping case that took place in America in the late 1970s. In northern California, a sexual sadist abducted a young woman and kept her in a coffin-sized box for seven years, relentlessly abusing and torturing her. But when the case came to court some years later, serious doubts were to emerge as to what had actually taken place.

On 19th May, 1977, Colleen Stan was hitchhiking through Red Bluff in California when she accepted a ride with Cameron Hooker, his wife Janice and their baby daughter. Hooker drove to the outskirts of the town and stopped, allowing his wife and child to leave the car. He then grabbed Colleen and blindfolded her, before fitting her with a homemade contraption that was to become known as the ‘head box’. “The purpose of the head box was to prevent people from hearing you scream,” explains Al Shamblin, a former Red Bluff police chief.

Hooker took his victim to his house, hung her by her wrists in the basement and, after whipping her, left her overnight – bound, gagged and struggling for breath. The next day, Colleen was chained to a homemade torture rack and left all day. “I didn’t understand what was going on,” she recalls. However, her ordeal was only just beginning.

After a few days, Hooker moved Colleen into a coffin-like box he had constructed and left her there for three to four months, feeding her scraps to keep her alive. Hooker had no police record or history of violence, but had developed an obsession with bondage and extreme sexual practices from an early age. By torturing his prisoner and keeping her isolated, he intended to break her spirit and make her utterly compliant. “Cameron Hooker was after the perfect slave,” explains ex-FBI agent Roy Hazelwood.

Eight months after the abduction, Hooker decided to formalise Colleen’s status as a slave and drew up a contract laying claim to her body and soul. He told her he was part of a powerful network of male slave-owners called ‘The Company’ that operated across America. Under this extraordinary fiction, Colleen was made to believe that any attempt to escape would result in her family being killed by the Company. She signed the contract and accepted her new slave name, ‘K’. “I totally believed it,” she says.

In May, 1978, Hooker moved Colleen and his family into a trailer on the outskirts of the town where he began a new stage of his plan. He put Colleen in a tiny box below the bed that he and his wife shared, and kept her there for 22 hours of every day. When not confined, Colleen was set to work in the garden, or tied to a device Hooker called the ‘stretcher’ and tortured. All this time, Hooker’s wife, Janice, was aware that her husband was keeping Colleen as a slave, but allowed it to go ahead in return for immunity from his abuse.

As time went by, Colleen’s domestic chores expanded until she was acting as a live-in nanny for the hours she was out of the box, looking after the two children Hooker and Janice now had. Hooker granted her the occasional freedom to go out, and even once allowed her to visit her family – all the time trusting in his absolute control over his victim. Colleen’s family realised she was not herself, but were happy to see that she was alive. On her return to the trailer, however, Colleen was to pay an awful price for her brief freedom, and spent the next three years in the box below the bed.

Eventually, after herself suffering abuse at Hooker’s hands, Janice told Colleen that the Company did not exist and told her to run away. With Hooker’s control now broken, Colleen escaped, returned home and contacted the police. In November, 1984, Hooker was eventually brought to trial on 17 charges of rape and sodomy.

However, what seemed like an open-and-shut case was to offer a sensational twist. Hooker’s defence lawyer argued that while his client did abduct Colleen, the sex they had was consensual. To support this claim, he produced a series of love letters written by Colleen to her supposed captor. The shocking trial that followed lasted some five weeks and explored, in the most dramatic way, the real meaning of consent, coersion and control.

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  • Anonymous

    Ah this is what public service broadcasting is all about :-)

  • Anonymous

    has anyone got the book to this film as i have been looking for it for a number of years??

  • Anonymous

    Was intersted in finding the book myself and came across this book written by the chief prosecutor in the case, hope that helps.
    ^ Mcguire, Christine; Carla Norton (1989). Perfect Victim: The True Story of “The Girl in the Box” by the D.A. That Prosecuted Her Captor. Dell. ISBN 978-0440204428.

  • Adam

    What a sick sick man he deserves to die let alone be in prison!

  • alison cook

    where did u find that book ive been looking everywhere for it and cant find it, wot site did u find it on

  • madeleine

    did anyone record this documentary? i really wanted to see it but missed it and cant find it online anywhere

  • madeleine

    did anyone record this documentary? i missed it and cant find it online anywhere?

  • Anonymous

    snaaaaaakes

  • Anonymous

    I just watched the documentary.. I believe it was both ways.. she seemed like she fell in love and couldn’t have the nerve to leave him??

  • Flatx

    hey guys im the same az madeleine, missed it and really wanna catch up on that story, is it anywhere on the net?

  • Dangerous person

    What’s brown and sticky?

    A STICK!

    from Vogina princess

  • Anonymous

    thats is sick what he didi to that girl its wrong and his wife is sick

  • the figurehead

    i have the book,and its very interesting.
    did you know that the metal band ”slipknot”wrote a song called ”purity”and its based on the story of ”the girl in the box”.
    they can only play the song live for legal reasons and have not realised it on an album.
    very good song.

  • Anonymous

    I missed the tv movie for this book and would like to know if any one knows where it can be viewed besides the uk?

  • Someone

    I have not read the book yet or seen the movie, but I was born in Redbluff, the northern cali small town it happened in and raised in Redding which is about a 15-20 min drive away. I went to school with her daughter who is now serving time for helping her best friend kill her best friends parents. Isnt that crazy!! I really feel sorry for everything that poor family has been through. I was friends with her daughter for years, untill she went to jail. I still cant believe she had anything to do with murder. But according to her, I never did get to meet her mom, the book is all wrong. The other book actually written by the DA is a more acurate account. Its a very very very sad and scary story and not for the faint of heart.

  • Sprouty

    I went to school with Janice. She was very nice and very quiet. I rode the bus with her for three years.

  • Anonymous

    How old was she when she was taken?

  • Anonymous

    i read somewhere that she was 20 at the time

  • Anonymous

    she didnt love him she acted like she loved him because the more she did the less punishments he gave her

  • Julia

    This is a terrible story; I am full of admiration for Colleen who I now believe is dedicating her life to others suffering from domestic violence. What is even more unbelievable however is the appalling ignorance and distorted views on domestic violence of the defense lawyer and psychitrist, how do they sleep at night; have they considered this could have been their own daughter or are they perpetrators themselves (evidence is clear that DV offenders come from all backgrounds, are inadequate and insecure, lie to avoid responsibility for their crimes, and are devoid of passion)?
    Domestic violence victims (victims of torture) develop coping strategies including compliance with their abuser in order to survive (see the many professional/academic websites on domestic violence). Have a look at the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ for an understanding of the psycological response of victims in the presence of isolation, total dependance on their abuser and impending death!
    If ever there was a ‘clear cut’ case for the death penalty…this is it!

  • Julia

    This is a terrible story; I am full of admiration for Colleen who I now believe is dedicating her life to others suffering from domestic violence. What is even more unbelievable however is the appalling ignorance and distorted views on domestic violence of the defense lawyer and psychitrist, how do they sleep at night; have they considered this could have been their own daughter or are they perpetrators themselves (evidence is clear that DV offenders come from all backgrounds, are inadequate and insecure, lie to avoid responsibility for their crimes, and are devoid of passion)?
    Domestic violence victims (victims of torture) develop coping strategies including compliance with their abuser in order to survive (see the many professional/academic websites on domestic violence). Have a look at the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ for an understanding of the psycological response of victims in the presence of isolation, total dependance on their abuser and impending death!
    If ever there was a ‘clear cut’ case for the death penalty…this is it!

  • Girl of Sclience

    this whole story is crazy… my grandparents lived across the street from the hooker houuse. i had been in that house many times i was a young girl mabe 6 but of course thair was no reason for me to think any thing was wrong…. My parents really didnt care for camron but they liked his wife so wwe visited often. Its just a huge shock to find out how sick and crul they really wore

  • Anonymous

    What a shocking ordeal the poor woman endured. I am not sure I’d have been able to stay sane…let alone survive. She wa smart to play it cool and trick him into thinkning she was under his spell.
    The love letters and posing like she was his girlfriend was most certainly a clever act on her part to preserve herself and save herself from being further tortured…plus, she cleverly played his trust to get him to lower his defences…then she finally was able to get away.
    Might have had a slight Patty Hearst syndrome…but that can’t be verified…Thank GOD she got away with her LIFE!
    She is so strong and brave.

  • Anonymous

    yes, this was a terrible situation. i wouldn’t wish this on an enemy. this young lady was smart about this because she could have been rude and disrespectful. instead she did what she had to for him to trust in her. the only thing was when she went to see her family she could have left a note explaining the situation and let them know that a search needs to come out and it should not be made public. this could have gotten her back three years earlier.

  • Anonymous

    yes, this was a terrible situation. i wouldn’t wish this on an enemy. this young lady was smart about this because she could have been rude and disrespectful. instead she did what she had to for him to trust in her. the only thing was when she went to see her family she could have left a note explaining the situation and let them know that a search needs to come out and it should not be made public. this could have gotten her back three years earlier.

  • angie

    The fact that Colleen didn’t call the police when she visited her parents – proves the POWER of the brainwashed HOLD that monster had on her!!

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