When Colleen Stan decided to hitchhike to a friend’s place, she never imagined being held captive for seven years. But sadly, that’s precisely what happened to her starting in May 1977. Netflix’s ‘Unsolved Mysteries: The Ghost in Apartment 14′ focuses on Colleen’s life in captivity after being abducted by Cameron Hooker and her remarkable story of survival. So, if you’re wondering what happened in this case, here’s what we know.
Who is Colleen Stan?
In May 1977, Colleen Stan was 20 and planning to hitchhike from Eugene, Oregon, to Westwood, California, to attend a friend’s birthday party. She had let two cars pass by before Cameron and Janice Hooker came along; they had their child with them. Colleen accepted the ride, but at one point, she did feel the urge to leave. However, she decided to stay, and soon, the horror began. Colleen later said, “[Cameron] had taken this wooden box and set it on the back seat. I didn’t know what it was. But I later found out it was a ‘head’ box.”
Cameron turned the car into a dirt road and held Colleen at knifepoint before placing her head in that box. They drove to the Hooker home in Red Bluff, California, and took her to the basement. There, Cameron stripped and hung her from the rafters. Colleen then described what happened, saying, “I was terrified. Janice watched as Cameron tortured me, and then they had sex in front of me. I was convinced they were going to kill me.” In the time that followed, Cameron put Colleen in a rack, where her wrists and ankles were chained, or in a coffin-like box.
Colleen was let out only once a day to eat and perform bodily functions. Cameron also tortured her; he electrocuted her, burned her pubic area, restricted her breathing, and whipped her. During this period, he told Colleen that he was part of an organization called “the Company” that kept close tabs on her. Cameron told her if she tried to escape, the Company would find and torture her. In January 1978, Janice came home with a brace after knee surgery. To reinforce fear in Colleen, he stated that the Company hurt his wife because she tried to escape. Janice, who claimed to be scared, agreed with the story.
The same month, Cameron had Colleen sign a “slave contract” that gave her a new name. Colleen also had to address Cameron as “Master” or “Sir” and Janice as “Ma’am.” In April 1978, the couple moved with their children to a mobile home and took Colleen with them. They put her in a box under their bed, and Colleen was in there when Janice gave birth to her second child. Over time, she was let out for longer; she babysat the kids and even worked in the yard. However, the threat of the Company loomed, so Colleen was too scared to leave.
In 1980, Colleen told Cameron that she loved him despite it being untrue. She hoped for better treatment. Around the same time, Colleen was also allowed to speak with her family over the phone under Cameron’s supervision. In 1981, she met her family, with Cameron posing as her boyfriend. However, Colleen didn’t tell them what was really happening because she was too scared. During her captivity, Cameron raped her several times and sodomized her. By 1984, Janice had begun talking to others about what was happening, and they urged her to speak to the authorities and let Colleen go.
In August 1984, when Cameron was at work, Janice and Colleen left with the children, with Colleen being dropped off at the bus station. She even called Cameron from there, saying she was leaving. Janice and Colleen stayed in touch, and the former asked the latter not to inform the authorities so Cameron would have a chance to reform. Colleen moved back with her family and told them some of what happened, but in the end, she was just glad to be free and wanted to move on.
Where is Colleen Stan Today?
But in November 1984, Janice told the police about everything, leading to Cameron’s arrest and trial. Colleen was called to testify, and in the end, Cameron was sentenced to serve more than 100 years in prison. In the years that followed, Colleen talked about how she dealt with captivity. She said, “I learned I could go anywhere in my mind. 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.”
Over time, Colleen learned to deal with it all and has been doing much better. She added, “Your life is just kinda in limbo when you’re in captivity, and once you get that freedom back and you have that choice again, it’s just like the gates open, and you just run for it.” Colleen has since changed her name and seems to live somewhere in Northern California.
As of 2016, Colleen was married four times and focused on raising her grandson. She also pursued an accounting degree and worked as an office manager. Every year on August 10, Colleen goes to the beach with her loved ones to celebrate her escape from Cameron’s clutches. Apart from that, she published a book in 2009 called ‘The Simple Gifts of Life,’ detailing her ordeal.
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