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5 Other Kidnapping Victims Who Survived Their Ordeals

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Details are still slowly emerging about the bizarre case of three young women who were allegedy held hostage by Ariel Castro and his two brothers for 10 years in Cleveland, Ohio. One fact that is not in dispute, however, is that the families of Amanda Berry (right), Georgina DeJesus (left), and Michelle Knight are overjoyed that their long-lost daughters and sisters were found alive. Here are the stories of five other kidnapping victims that, like the Cleveland women, suffered through unspeakable horrors during their captivity, but were fortunate in that they also survived their ordeals. 

1. Jaycee Dugard

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Still fresh in the public’s mind is the case of Jaycee Dugard, who was just 11 years old in 1991 when a car slowed down as she was walking from her house to the school bus stop in South Lake Tahoe, California. Thinking the driver was going to ask for directions when he rolled down his window, she walked up to the car.

Instead the driver, convicted sex offender Phillip Craig Garrido, zapped her with a stun gun and his wife, Nancy, dragged Jaycee into the car and held her down during the two hour ride to their home in Antioch. There, Garrido locked her in a soundproofed storage shed in his back yard, warning her that his Doberman Pinschers would attack her if she tried to escape.

Garrido raped Jaycee repeatedly while she was held captive, and at age 14 she gave birth to a daughter. By the time Dugard gave birth to her second daughter in 1997, Garrido occasionally let the three sleep in a tent in his back yard rather than the storage shed. Eventually Dugard answered exclusively to the new name Garrido had given her, Allissa, and even worked for him sometimes in his printing shop, where customers said she never mentioned her true identity or that she was being held against her will.

Jaycee and her daughters were out with Garrido at the University of California-Berkeley in August 2009 when he tried to secure permission to hold an event on campus. The manager thought the girls looked very pale and acted robotic. She had Garrido fill out a form and excused herself to run a background check in another office. When his name came back as a registered sex offender who was not to be in contact with young children, she called the police.

Jaycee Dugard was awarded $20 million by the State of California for the mishandling of her case by law enforcement, and Phillip and Nancy Garrido are serving life sentences in prison.

2. Colleen Stan

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Colleen Stan was 20 years old when she accepted a ride in May 1977 in Red Bluff, California, while hitchhiking from Eugene, Oregon, to Westwood, California, to attend a friend’s birthday party. Even though hitchhiking was considered unsafe, and women especially were warned against it, Colleen felt safe getting into the blue Dodge Colt because the young couple inside was clean cut had their baby with them.

However, shortly after she got inside the car, the driver, Cameron Hooker, detoured onto a small dirt road and then stopped. His wife, Janice, stepped outside with the baby while Cameron put a knife to Colleen’s throat and ordered her to cooperate. He then handcuffed her and placed a hinged plywood box over her head which he’d constructed especially for the occasion. It was heavily insulated so Colleen could not see or hear; in fact, she could barely breathe.

Once they arrived at the Hookers' house, the “head box” was removed, but Colleen was hung by her wrists from the basement ceiling and whipped. After Cameron tired of this torture, he and Janice had sex on the floor near where Colleen dangled and whimpered in pain (he’d threatened to cut her vocal cords if she screamed). It turned out that Cameron had long harbored fantasies of having a sex slave, and his wife went along with his plan because she was afraid he’d leave her otherwise (and who would want to lose such a gem of a husband?).

Hooker was fascinated by the erotic novel The Story of O, and proceeded to have Colleen sign a slavery contract in which she agreed to follow his every depraved order. She spent much of her time in another box Hooker had constructed that fit underneath his and his wife’s bed. Stan spent seven years as Hooker’s prisoner, punching bag, and sex toy until his wife finally called the police. Cameron had made the mistake of confessing to Janice that he wanted to have a baby with Colleen, and Janice got jealous.

After her rescue, Colleen returned home, went to college for an accounting degree, got married, and had a daughter. Cameron Hooker was sentenced to 104 years imprisonment, thanks in part to testimony by his wife, who received complete immunity for being the state’s witness.

3. Tanya Kach

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Tanya Kach was a troubled 13-year-old when she started confiding in the security guard who worked at her middle school. Her parents had split up, her mom left home, and her father moved his girlfriend in. The 37 year old guard, Thomas Hose, was much older than Tanya, but he was a sympathetic ear who often joked with her and didn’t treat her like a kid. He bought her cigarettes and candy and soon the pair were sneaking kisses in secluded areas of the schoolyard.  

In February 1996, Tom proclaimed his love for Tanya and encouraged her to run away from home and come live with him. But life at his suburban Pittsburgh home was not the idyllic “honeymoon” the young girl expected. Hose lived with his parents and kept Tanya hidden away in his upstairs bedroom. Much of the time she was locked in his closet with a bucket to use as a toilet. Tom threatened to kill her family if she made a sound. She was taken downstairs once a week for a shower when his parents were asleep.

After four years, Hose introduced Tanya to his folks as “Nikki,” his girlfriend, and she was “allowed” to move in with him. Tom now allowed Tanya out of the house occasionally to run errands for him, and the owner of the neighborhood deli suspected something was not quite right about the frightened teenage girl with the much older boyfriend who kept her head down whenever they came into his store. One day Tanya managed to speak to the owner privately for a few minutes, giving him her real name and begging him to phone for help. A few hours later police arrived at the Hose house, ending her 10 year captivity. 

Tanya Kach is still estranged from her parents but is engaged to be married. Thomas Hose was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison and was denied parole in 2012.

4. Steven Stayner

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Seven-year-old Steven Stayner was walking home from school in Merced, California, in 1972 when convicted child molester Kenneth Parnell approached him. Posing as a minister, Parnell asked Steven if his mother would be willing to donate items to his church. When the youngster answered in the affirmative, Parnell invited him to get into his Buick, saying that he’d drive him home.

Instead Parnell drove Steven to a cabin in Catheys Valley, where he molested the youngster and told him that his parents had made him the boy’s legal guardian because they couldn’t afford to take care of him and his four siblings. He re-christened the boy “Dennis” and began passing him off as his own son. The duo moved around to various parts of California, and Parnell allowed the young boy to drink liquor and to live without a lot of rules.

He continued to sexually assault Stayner until he reached puberty, whereupon he kidnapped a new, younger victim—5-year-old Timmy White. Stayner was upset at the prospect of such a young child being subjected to the same treatment he’d sustained for the past seven years, so he escaped with White one night while Parnell was at work. They went to a Ukiah police station where Stayner told officials “I know my first name is Steven, I think my last name is Stainer (sic).”

Steven Stayner got married in 1985 and had two children with his wife. Sadly, he died due to injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident in 1989. Amazingly, due to the laws in place at that time, Kenneth Parnell was only sentenced to seven years and was paroled after five. 

5. Erica Pratt

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The word on the street in the southwest Philadelphia neighborhood where 7-year-old Erica Pratt lived was that her grandmother had just received a very large sum of money from a life insurance settlement after the shooting death of her husband. Edward Johnson and James Burns devised a plan to help themselves to some of that cash: They would kidnap one of the Pratt grandchildren and demand $150,000 in ransom.

On a July afternoon in 2002, Erica happened to be closer to the curb while outside playing with her 5-year-old sister Naliyah when the kidnappers showed up. They drove her to a house about 12 miles away and left her locked in the basement with duct tape binding her hands and legs and covering her eyes.

The spunky youngster spent the long hours that followed chewing her way through the tape on her hands. Once they were free, she removed the tape from her eyes and felt her way to the stairway. She hopped up the steps and, finding the door locked, punched a wooden panel out of the door and wriggled through it. Erica was stymied yet again when she reached the living room; the door was locked and the key was missing, and the windows had bars covering them. She found a heavy object and broke the glass between the bars and screamed for help. Two boys playing across the street heard her and contacted police. Twenty-four hours after her ordeal had begun, Erica Pratt was free; a scratched cornea was her only injury.

Edward Johnson was sentenced to 10 to 37 years in prison, while James Burns was given 14 ½ to 49 years.

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Courtesy of October Films
This Scientist's Idea of the 'Perfect' Human Body Is Kind of Terrifying
Courtesy of October Films
Courtesy of October Films

The perfect human body has the legs of an ostrich, the heart of a dog, and the eyes of an octopus, according to anatomist Alice Roberts. And it’s utterly terrifying.

With the help of anatomical artist Scott Eaton and special effects designer Sangeet Prabhaker, Roberts created a life-size replica of herself that fixes many design flaws inherent to the human body, Motherboard reports. Roberts unveiled the sculpture on April 23 at the Science Museum in London. On June 13, the BBC released a documentary about the project.

Among the flaws Roberts’s sculpture corrects are humans’ inferior ears, spine, and lungs. Roberts borrowed anatomy from reptiles, birds, and other mammals to create a Frankenstein-esque creature straight from the island of Dr. Moreau.

The sculpture of Alice 2.0, left, with Alice Roberts, right
Courtesy of October Films

The sculpture has legs like an ostrich because, as Roberts says on her website, the human knee is complex and prone to failure. Like humans, ostriches are bipedal, but they are far better runners. Bird-like lungs that keep air flowing in one direction, not two, make running and other aerobic activities easier for the perfect human to manage. And a chimpanzee’s sturdier spine and a dog’s heart (which has more connected arteries, leading to lower heart attack risk) make Roberts’s alternate self more resistant to injury and disease.

Roberts’s ideal human body also has skin like a frog that can change shades based on the environment, and large, bat-like ears that amplify sound. Roberts also fixed humans’ backwards retina, which produces a natural blind spot, by borrowing from octopus eye anatomy.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is the baby head poking out of the sculpture’s marsupial pouch. Roberts says marsupial pregnancy would be far easier on the human body and more convenient for parents on the go.

“This could be a human fit for the future,” Roberts says at the end of a trailer for her BBC documentary.

[h/t Motherboard]

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Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station Are Throwing a Party for Pride Month
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Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station are gearing up to celebrate Pride month in one of the world's harshest environments. On Saturday, June 9, the station will host what Hannah Valian, who deals with the center's recycling efforts, calls "one of the larger parties ever thrown" at the station.

McMurdo Station is an Antarctic research facility owned and operated by the United States. The station is more sparsely populated during Antarctica's colder autumn and winter seasons (which run from March to September), but employees tell us there's still a decent-sized LGBTQ scene to celebrate this June.

About 10 of the 133 people currently at McMurdo identify as LGBTQ, says Rachel Bowens-Rubin, a station laboratory assistant. Valian said the idea for a Pride celebration came up in May at one of the station's regular LGBTQ socials.

"Everyone got really excited about it," she tells Mental Floss via email. "So we ran with it."

Ten individuals are wearing coats while holding a rainbow-colored Pride flag. They are standing in snow with mountains in the distance.
"I hope when people see this photo they'll be reminded that LGBTQ people aren't limited to a place, a culture, or a climate," McMurdo's Evan Townsend tells Mental Floss. "We are important and valuable members of every community, even at the bottom of the world."
Courtesy of Shawn Waldron

Despite reports that this is the continent's first Pride party, none of the event's organizers are convinced this is the first Pride celebration Antarctica has seen. Sous chef Zach Morgan tells us he's been attending LGBTQ socials at McMurdo since 2009.

"The notion is certainly not new here," he says.

To Evan Townsend, a steward at the station, this weekend's Pride event is less a milestone and more a reflection of the history of queer acceptance in Antarctica.

"If anything," Townsend says, "recognition belongs to those who came to Antarctica as open members of the LGBTQ community during much less welcoming times in the recent past."

This week, though, McMurdo's employees only had positive things to say about the station's acceptance of LGBTQ people.

"I have always felt like a valued member of the community here," Morgan tells us in an email. "Most people I've met here have been open and supportive. I've never felt the need to hide myself here, and that's one of the reasons I love working here."

Saturday's celebration will feature a dance floor, photo booth, lip sync battles, live music, and a short skit explaining the history of Pride, Valian says.

"At the very least, I hope the attention our Pride celebration has garnered has inspired someone to go out and explore the world, even if they might feel different or afraid they might not fit in," Morgan says. "'Cause even on the most inhospitable place on Earth, there's still people who will love and respect you no matter who you are."

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