Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story

Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story is a new mini-series documentary on Hulu that covers a family and their strange life involved in true crime. The family’s story begins in the ’80s with Steven Stayner and the kidnapping that brought his family into a world of crime. 

Stayner was seven years old at the time of his abduction. He had been walking home one December afternoon in 1972 and was stopped by a stranger that offered him a ride. Young, oblivious Stayner entered the car believing that this man would take him back to his house, but he could never have been prepared for what actually happened. The man who had offered the ride was Kenneth Parnell, who already had a previous record of sexually abusing a child. 

Once Stayner was securely in Parnell’s possession, he was given a new name as well as manipulated into forgetting his family. Parnell was not content with Steven, so in 1980, he abducted another young boy, Timothy White. It didn’t take long for Steven Stayner and Timothy White to escape and make their way to a police station. The young boys turned Parnell in and were able to return to their families.

The production of this true-crime documentary differs from others. It does not only touch on the true-crime aspect of this story, but it addresses the trauma that must have been attached to this damaging event. The documentary is told from the perspective of some of the surviving Stayner family members. Though Stayner had been viewed as a national hero for saving Timothy White, he suffered from physical abuse. Unfortunately, viewers are unable to hear Stayner’s point of view since he passed away from a motorcycle accident in 1989.

The abduction of Steven Stayner had only been the beginning of the Stayner name in the news. Later, the older brother, Cary Stayner, was accused of being a culprit of four murders in Yosemite, 1999. Cary Stayner confessed to the murders in an FBI tape, and this provoked many reporters to state that his motive behind committing these crimes was to steal the spotlight away from his younger brother. At his trial, Cary Stayner used experiencing mental health struggles and being painfully shy as his defense. He described that he would go through nervous breakdowns when he was younger, and he tried to seek help but was unable to get any. 

The documentary seeks to explore the severity of mental health issues. Watching this documentary has filled me with so much suspense and anticipation. Captive audience: A Real American Horror Story is available to stream on hulu. If you enjoy watching true crime cases and find pleasure in the mystery genre, then Captive audience: A Real American Horror Story is a must-watch.