On a warm July night, somewhere in an Ikea showroom in Belgium, two teenagers popped out of wardrobes.
They crept out, really: wide-eyed and whispering, listening for guards, already second-guessing their plan.
Florian Van Hecke and Bram Geirnaert had graduated from high school a few weeks earlier. In a few more weeks, one was bound for medical studies and the other for business school.
“We were a bit stuck in the system,” Van Hecke, 19, told The Washington Post. “We just wanted to do something crazy, something a bit out of control.”
They decided to spend the night at Ikea.
And in doing that, Van Hecke and Geirnaert unleashed something that spiraled out of control.
Nearly 2 million people watched a YouTube video of their sleepover — the aborted bed bouncing, the teddy bear gag.
Then came a wave of brazen copycats, followed by complaints of trespassing and calls to police. Now, Ikea has issued stern words in the international press.
“It started as kind of a joke,” Van Hecke said. “We just wanted to sleep in an Ikea.”
Someone might want to watch that, he and his friend figured. So they threw a camera and some sleepwear into a backpack and walked into the Ghent, Belgium, big-box in plain daylight.
They mugged in the showroom, peeping at shoppers through a cracked closet door.
Then they sealed themselves up and waited for closing time.
They'd been in the wardrobes about three hours — with only their phones and the summer heat for company. Van Hecke listened to music. Geirnaert looked up a Reddit post about the legal consequences of breaking into a store.
“We became really, really nervous,” Van Hecke said.
But fear played well on camera.
After midnight, the two friends stepped out of the wardrobes. Van Hecke crouched low behind a bed.
“This bed is called the Vallavik,” Geirnaert whispered into the camera. “It's the best bed I've ever felt.”
Van Hecke and Geirnaert's imitators would later play up the lawlessness of their sleepovers — some calling themselves “savages,” others mocking security when caught.
But the original Ikea crashers acted more like little kids.
Performing a skit they'd written in advance, Geirnaert tucked himself into the Vallavik with a teddy bear and a storybook. They had planned to rate the beds by bounceability — but gave up on that project after a few weak jumps.
They slept beside each other in the showroom — not well, Van Hecke said — and fled the store in the morning, Ikea staff none the wiser.
“Two Idiots at Night in IKEA” was the pair's first YouTube video, Van Hecke said. “It went crazy as hell.”
More than 1.7 million people have watched it. Many have tried to emulate their feat.
“Ikea says illegal teenage sleepovers must end,” BBC News reported this week, logging escapades in Canada, the United States, Britain, Europe and Japan.
Two 15-year-old girls tried the stunt in Sweden in October, BBC reported, citing the local outlet Sydsvenskan. They were too scared to leave their cupboards, and Ikea reported them to police in the morning.
For some, getting caught seemed to be half the point. A pair of British YouTubers — Carnage and LordOmar — garnered more than 2 million views when they recorded their encounter with Ikea security. They've since expanded the stunt to Wembley Stadium and a zoo, and they have offered to sleep over at Buckingham Palace.
“The fun in it is overrated,” a spokesman for Ikea told BBC News this week. “A long night of sitting still, only to then risk getting in trouble with the law.”
Van Hecke, however, recalls it as “one hell of an adventure” — though the risk wasn't lost on him.
“We were very relieved and glad they wouldn't sue us,” he said. “We don't want to have trouble with Ikea. We just want to spread the message: Life is like one big, huge movie. It better be interesting.”
Now he and Geirnaert are trying to keep the interest up. They've released more YouTube movies: “Two Idiots Travel Free in Bag,” “Setting My Fart on Fire.”
But none have done nearly as well as their first. And with summer and high school behind them, adult affairs are intruding on their time.
Two weeks ago, Van Hecke said, he and his friend returned to the Ikea they'd made infamous. He needed furniture for his dorm.
Van Hecke had grown out his hair since the video, and Geirnaert had cut his. No one seemed to recognize them as they wandered the showroom — this time during proper business hours.