As They Posed For A Selfie, Someone Crept Into The Background…


The Richter Family

To spend some quality family time together, the Richter family decided to take a road trip. They like their home state of Oregon, but Amber, Erik, and their three daughters wanted to see some greener pastures during their vacation.


What Happens On Spring Break…

There was excitement in the air, as it was spring break. None of the family had to worry about homework, final exams, or doing reports for work, so all the Richters were in a good mood. This giddy atmosphere filled the car, as each member of the family was happy to not only be free of work but also to be together for the holiday. Before they were ready to hit the road in earnest, they had a couple of logistical hurdles to sort.


In The Hot Seat

It had been a while since the whole family crammed into the car together, and although it was an SUV, it still felt pretty narrow, somehow. The kids rarely argued, but they got passionate over legroom. As the argument over who was going to sit in the middle escalated, Amber stepped in and decided who would sit where which eventually restored the peace. She and Erik sat in front, and the three daughters fit in the back, with the youngest at a window seat, as she gets carsick.

hot seaty

A Turn Of Events

As the family finally settled into their seats, the classic “are we there yet” mentality of road trips kicked in, despite still being in the driveway of the house. The youngest daughter started saying how she was hungry, and wanted to stop for pizza. Her older sister retorted that she should have woken up to eat breakfast two hours ago. Erik heard both sides of the argument and finally promised to stop at a rest area with both pizza and coffee, in case he got tired of driving.

a turn

But First Let Me Take A Selfie

Finally, all the kids were settled, and Erik had started the engine. But before putting the car into reverse to leave the driveway, he decided that he wanted to document the happy moment. Usually it was Amber who was the one who wanted to take selfies, but this time, Erik was the one taking out his phone. He told the kids to say “cheese!” They were happy to smile along, and in a genuine way too, as they were simply happy to be on spring break.

but first

New Addition

The photo was not only to send to their cousins over the phone, but Amber planned to print it out for a scrapbook that she was putting together. Erik was considerate and remembered to take photos for it, even when Amber wasn’t around. However, this permanent documentation made two of the Richter daughters have mixed feelings. On one hand, they wanted to be in the scrapbook, but on the other hand, they were not exactly dressed for the occasion. They were wearing comfortable clothes for the long car ride.

new addition

Strike A Pose

Erik flipped the camera on selfie mode, and he adjusted his arm to make sure that everyone’s face could clearly be seen. Smiles turned into an impatient clenching of the jaw, as they waited and waiting for the artificial click of the camera phone. Even the youngest of the family realized that the phone was on the wrong mode; it was on video mode instead of camera. This was a mistake on Erik’s part. Or was it? He was not so unsavvy to make such a basic error.

strike a pose


Erik kept filming, despite originally setting out to take a photo. Although some of the Richters were more sporty, and others more into fashion, the one thing the whole family had in common was a go with the flow sort of attitude. So when they saw the red light of the phone recording them, they decided to keep posing, smiling, and doing a little in-the-seat dance for the camera. In the middle of the movie, something extremely startling occurred, and it was all captured in the video!

photo faux

Unexpected Passenger

The video started out light-hearted, but ended in horrific gasps and screams. Out of nowhere, a man in a black hoodie popped into the frame of the movie. It looked like he was hiding in the trunk of the car, and somehow was not there when the family packed their duffel bags for the overnight trip. When the family noticed the man in the frame of the movie, they turned and saw him, and started to shriek at the top of their lungs!


Rowan Richter

The piercing screams of the Richter family would scare anyone who was in the car, and surely could even be heard from outside loud and clear. The eerie, hooded figure got the family to scream, but the cries were not for fear of their lives, but screams of surprise and jubilation. The man in the black hoodie was someone who they all recognized immediately as a guy named Rowan, the son of Erik and Amber, and the brother of the three daughters!


No Man Left Behind

What is going on here? Was there not enough space in the white SUV for the daughters and Rowan? Did he draw the short straw and have to stay at home alone? It doesn’t make any sense because the rest of the family loves to spend time together and take many happy selfies together. It’s strange that they would leave Rowan behind and be so cheerful about it! The answer is shocking, and explains why the family screamed so loudly in disbelief when they saw him.

no man

Scary Stunt

For a millisecond, Amber maybe thought her eyes were playing tricks on her when she saw her son pop out of the trunk. It was only the screams of the other Richters that showed she was not seeing a mirage. Although she had a spike in fear and surprise she finally calmed down, and in a confusing mix of happiness and scolding said, “oh my God, you scared the hell out of me!” Not everyone was shocked at Rowan’s appearance, though.

scary stunt

Sweet Embrace

After the initial shock of the sudden emergence of a family member from the trunk died down, Rowan crawled into the backseat to greet his siblings, giving them hugs. The geometry of the trunk to backseat hugs made the embraces a bit awkward, but the love and feeling behind the hugs were extremely strong. They had not seen Rowan in a long time, as he usually was not in Oregon, in fact, he was usually on the other side of the country, or even overseas.


Popping The Question

Amber wondered how in the world Rowan was able to pull off this surprise visit. No chance he could have done it alone, she thought. Her prime suspect was her husband Erik. Looking back on the last week or so, Amber thought back on Erik’s behavior. As far as she remembered, Erik had acted like everything was normal: he didn’t take any mysterious phone calls and he didn’t close his laptop when she came in the room. Finally, she just asked, “Did you know he was doing this?”

woman closing/opening her laptop

Scheming In Secret

Erik is a very honest person by nature and was unable to contain himself when Amber asked him the question. He turned bright red and began to smile a guilty smile. He and Amber had been together for so long, she already knew the answer just from his face. Still, he answered that he had, “went and got him at the airport,” confirming Amber’s hunch. She wasn’t expecting to have the wool pulled over her eyes so masterfully, and she so playfully yelled at her husband: “you’re evil!”


Solving The Mystery

After Rowan had said his emotional hellos and had a good squeeze with each of his sisters, he crawled to the front of the car, to the shotgun seat. Amber had already thrown off her seatbelt and jumped out of the car, as the surprise was almost too much for her. Rowan waddled awkwardly to the empty seat, eventually able to get up and give a huge hug to his dear mother. Everyone was smiling as hard as they could as mother and son simply enjoyed each other’s presence.



As the Richters got used to that familiar feeling of having Rowan back, Erik stopped the video recording. He was feeling satisfied, as he had the perfect shocking yet moving video in hand, and he wondered what to do with it next. Putting it in Amber’s scrapbook wasn’t possible, so he decided to document it by putting it on YouTube for the world to see. He didn’t necessarily expect anyone to watch it, but, the clip became a big hit pretty promptly.


Going Viral

The video got a surprising amount of views quite quickly, and officially went viral, with the video reaching a peak of 1.4 million views. At least 200 of those views were just from the Richters themselves, as they loved the surrealness of seeing themselves so shocked over and over again. Even though the video was so personal, it was, after all, just one family’s reaction to seeing their son, the number of views and user comments showed that a lot of people really related to the video.

going viral

Comedic Comments

The video got tons of comments on social media, and Rowan read them aloud to entertain the rest of the family as they sat around one night. One Facebook user said, “[I] don’t know what I liked better, Mom’s extreme reaction or the love in Dad’s non-stop smile! It’s a tie.” The love the family felt from strangers around the world added to the bond they all felt with Rowan. The Richters also liked to joke how funny everyone’s face looked when Rowan first emerged.



Beyond being excited by the shrieks in the video, many who saw the clip were deeply moved. One user said, “There were lots of emotion [and] hugs. [It] will always be one of my most favorite memories, nothing can compare to the love of family.” Another user even choked up, saying that she watched the video with, “a few tears in [her] eyes, remembering when our family’s special Marine landed his jet.” Many people related to the sense of loneliness you feel when your soldier son is overseas.

misty eyed

To Grandmother’s House We Go

Erik and Rowan were not done yet, though. They had planned one more video to film, and this time everyone was in on the prank. They headed to Rowan’s grandmother’s house, who had no clue that Rowan was not away dealing with his serious responsibilities overseas as a US Marine. The reaction was sure to be as dramatic, if not more dramatic than the one that Erik and Rowan got from Amber and the girls. Grandma was at home watching TV, and expected to have a normal day.

to grandmothers

The Golden Child

The family spent some time to map out a plan to surprise grandma Richter. The plan was set in motion after Erik called to tell his mom that he and the girls of the family were going to drop by for a visit. Erik did not even have to say Rowan was not there- that went without saying. Everyone in the family and even extended family understood that Rowan had important duties to the country that required him to be away for long periods of time.


The Great Reveal

Grandma Richter got the house ready for guests, making treats that everyone in the family loved. She made her famous moon cookies, which are shaped like crescents, and some sweet tea. Erik, Amber, and their daughters spent an hour eating, catching up, telling her all about how relieved they were to be on spring break. Eventually, the family decided it was time to go. According to their plan, Rowan was hiding in the living room, and Erik coaxed his mother into that room. Rowan slowly got behind his grandma.

great reveal

Shreik Of Terror

Rowan used his Marine training to tiptoe undetected behind his grandma, but as he got very close, her senses told her something wasn’t right. She quickly swiveled, and she couldn’t believe her eyes! She felt an extreme shock in her chest, and wondered if she was seeing things. She reached out to touch him to see if he was real, and when she saw he was, she let out a shocked howl, similar to the one that Rowan’s mom let out when he popped out of their car trunk.


Shame On You!

As the fear subsided, Rowan’s grandma became very happy to see her grandson, and started to laugh at the whole situation. She doubled over giggling as her dog greeted Rowan. Upon realizing the level of planning that she was left out of, she jokingly scolded Rowan for the big scare she just experienced, saying “shame on you!” Of course, she got over the scare pretty instantly as she went in for a tight hug with Rowan, who she had not seen in countless months.

shame on

Toy Soldier

Following their long embrace, the whole family plus Rowan could sit and talk, and eat a bit more. Luckily, there were some leftover moon cookies and sweet tea for Rowan, who eats like only a soldier could. They reminisced about how Rowan used to come and eat those same treats at grandma’s house when young, and then go off to build forts out of cushions, pillows, and blankets. Hours after the family was supposedly leaving, they were still sitting and talking.

toy soldier

Back To Base

Everyone was reluctant to say goodbye, but the Richters still had a lot of driving to do, as they had a reservation for a hotel in Olympia to get to. They were to have a short vacation all together going hiking in the Olympic National Forest. Shortly after the spring break vacation, though, the kids had to go back to school, the parents had to go back to work, and Rowan had to get back to base. Grandma Richter packed them some food and finally let them go.

back to

Until Next Time

The goodbye with grandma was especially tender, and was drawn out for what felt like almost half an hour! It’s understandable, as they probably would not be seeing each other for quite a long time. With deployment overseas, you never know what is going to happen. All she knew is that she would be prepared next time, and be super suspicious of any family visits. The rest of the family felt the same way, saying that Erik and Rowan would not trick them again.

until next

Off Duty

The level of shock that came from Amber and the girls in the car was so incredible that the video garnered over a million views. They were so shocked because they expected Rowan to be away on base and not allowed to leave. There was no way Rowan would ever go AWOL, as he was an excellent soldier. In fact, he was so good that the Marine leadership promoted him to the rank of Lance Corporal. Since that rank has many responsibilities, he rarely gets to go home.

off duty

World Wide Traveller

Rowan rose quickly from Private, to Private First Class, and is now the third enlisted rank, a Lance Corporal. He is being considered for a position as a Corporal, but that would mean even more time away from home. There is also a lot of work to be done as a Marine. Luckily, he is able to get away and meet his family every once in a while, and although this instance went viral, Rowan is happy just to see his siblings and parents without the surprise.

world wide