• Melanie Rauscher was a star of the reality series “Naked and Afraid” and “Naked and Afraid XL”
• She was a Pennsylvania native and had served in the US Navy
• Her death in July 2022 was sudden and mysterious
• Her former “Naked and Afraid” co-star, Jeremy McCaa, has since moved on with his new girlfriend
• “Naked and Afraid” contestants compete for the prize of ‘their pride and sense of accomplishment’ and receive a few thousand dollars for their appearance on the show
Who was Melanie Rauscher?
The late Melanie Rauscher was a star of the reality series “Naked and Afraid”, and had debuted as a contestant in season seven of the show, which aired in 2017. Melanie was paired with Jeremy McCaa, with whom she had to survive in the wilderness for 21 days. In the following year, the pair returned to the screens in season four of “Naked and Afraid XL”. The season prompted an even bigger challenge, as the contestants had to survive for 40 days, however, after Melanie’s partner, Dustin ‘Duck’ Campbell suffered an illness during filming, she tapped out of the competition after 13 days.
When she wasn’t on TV, Melanie worked as a recreation specialist at the Prescott VA Medical Center. A Pennsylvania native, Melanie was born in Norristown where she attended Kennedy-Kenrick High School, and later moved to Virginia to study at Old Dominion University. Upon graduating, she joined the US Navy, serving abroad the USS Theodore Roosevelt CVN-17 aircraft.
Her military experience provided her with survival skills and helped her land a spot on Discovery’s “Naked and Afraid”. Outside of the show, Melanie used to spend a lot of time outdoors, hiking and camping. Her passion for adventure and desire to challenge herself were some of her most remarkable traits. Furthermore, Melanie was a passionate athlete, who competed in local adult leagues. In her spare time, she often watched football, and was a big fan of the Philadelphia Eagles.
During her debut appearance, Melanie and her partner were situated in Atchafalaya Swamp, Louisiana – the largest wetland in the United States. There, the duo was faced with numerous challenges, including the threats from swamp predators such as alligators and snakes. When Melanie joined the show, Jeremy had already spent a few days in the location, and went on to break the record for the longest stay in the wilderness, after the two completed the 21 days challenge. For her second appearance, Melanie was paired with returning contestants Sarah Danser and Dusting Campbell, but the trio weren’t able to complete the challenge this time.
Melanie Rauscher tragically passed away in July 2022, under mysterious circumstances. Her body had been found at a Prescott, Arizona residence, where she was dog sitting while the homeowners were away on a vacation. As they returned home on 17 July, they found Melanie’s lifeless body on the guest room bed, surrounded by several cans of compressed air, which are typically used to dust off computer equipment; it’s unclear whether she consumed the cans’ contents. According to the local police department, there were no signs of foul play, nor did they find a suicide note or drug paraphernalia.
While the definitive cause of Melanie’s death hasn’t been determined yet, it’s worth noting that the gases from an air duster can have severe adverse effects, ranging from dizziness to hallucinations and permanent brain damage. Inhaling duster air disrupts normal heath rhythm, causing fatal health failure in larger doses. It’s estimated that between 100 and 200 Americans die every year from inhaling compressed air.
Due to its hallucinogenic nature, compressed air is sometimes used an easily accessible opiate, mainly by teenagers and younger kids, but Melanie had no previous record of substance abuse, and the dog she was looking after was fine.
Melanie’s sudden passing shook her family, friends and cast-mates. Her former “Naked and Afraid” co-star, Jeremy McCaa expressed his grief in a touching social media post. ‘We had such a chemistry on the show and it blossomed into a friendship that goes beyond what words could describe. Her laughter was one of a kind. Her friendship was amazing. Even tho we wasn’t blood, we was family. I could always count on her. We had so many moments when we would just be there for each other. She was my swamp wife, a best friend, a strong woman, an amazing person and I’ll always cherish our moments together.’, wrote Jeremy on his Facebook page.
Melanie’s family encouraged her fans to donate to PTSD Foundation of America, a non-profit organization which she had been devoted to during her life. They also planted trees in her memory, and emboldened other mourners to do so as well.
The premier episode of the ninth season of “Naked and Afraid XL” featured a tribute to Melanie.
Melanie’s time on “Naked and Afraid”
Melanie applied for the show in April 2016, with the aim to test out her carefully honed survival skills. ‘I wanted to know nature on a raw, real level and the show seemed like the only true way to experience that’, she said in one of her early interviews. After a six months long casting process, she was one of the people chosen from a pool of over 1,000 applicants.
Delta Squad!! Be sure you're watching May 6!! https://t.co/wQLjhyP9wP
— Melanie Rauscher (@RauschMe) April 4, 2018
Before arriving on set, Melanie was initially told that her partner was located in the same hotel. However, as she later found out, Jeremy had actually already spent several days in the wilderness completely alone, since his previous partner had abandoned him. ‘I was a little pissed,’ she said. ‘I honestly don’t think 21-days out there, alone, is possible. I am just glad that he was able to stick it out until I got there! My hat’s off to him because I can’t understand how he even did a single night alone!’
Luckily for Jeremy, Melanie arrived on day five, and the two successfully endured 21 days in the dangerous Louisiana swamp. The challenge wasn’t easy, though, as sleep deprivation, lack of food, and terrifying swamp animals posed a constant threat. They often resorted to eating whatever deemed edible at the time, which included boiled arrowhead leaves and animals they hunted. During her time in the swamp, Melanie suffered severe weight loss, a leg injury, amenorrhea and a number of other medical issues.
She later spoke about her time on the show as a humbling experience: ‘We are so privileged here in America and we absolutely take that for granted. I’m not saying we have it easy because truth is, for 98% of the US population, life is a constant struggle. However, even people who are homeless have clothes, and we are wealthy enough to give money away. Think about that.’
Join Jeremy McCaa and Melanie Rauscher Live on TV PARTY App tomorrow night after Naked and Afraid 10pm est
You can download the free phone app at https://t.co/nbwvatwbbE#NakedAndAfraid #TvPartyApp #DiscoveryChannel #Discovery #Survival #JungleWife #JungleHusband Please Retweet pic.twitter.com/tpP1RAqSap
— Deborah G (@MyNextLifeDebi) March 30, 2019
During her first shot at “Naked and Afraid”, Melanie grew close to Jeremy, who became one of her best friends post-show. Although there were rumors circulating the Internet about them being in a relationship, both of them denied that there was ever anything romantic or sexual between them.
What happened to Jeremy McCaa?
Contrary to rumors, Jeremy was actually married to Robin Watson McCaa. The two seem to have parted ways recently, but the “Naked and Afraid” star has since moved on with his new girlfriend, Chrissy Oxyley.
A North Louisiana native, Jeremy grew up only five hours away from Atchafalaya Basin, where season seven was filmed. However, he doesn’t think that growing up near the swamp gave him an edge in the challenge. ‘In most areas, survival is all the same,’ he said in one of his interviews. ‘Secure shelter, water and food. Some fans of the show will give me hell for filming in my state, but the swamp is where they send the military to train. The environment is harsh and isn’t welcoming to people there. It’s going to test you mentally and physically out there.’
In one of the most memorable moments of his and Melanie’s time on the show, the duo was approached by a seemingly humanoid creature, which some fans claim to be Sasquatch – a mysterious cryptid which supposedly inhabits the infamous Atchafalaya Swamp.
For his next challenge, Jeremy travelled to South Africa in 2018 to participate in the fourth season of “Naked and Afraid XL: All Stars”. Fir this season, the contestants were split into four teams of three, and Jeremy was in a team Called ‘Shosho Ravine’ with Gary Golding and Trent Nielsen. He entered the challenge with a ‘Primitive Survival Rating’ of 8.2, but tapped out after eight days due to a medical emergency, while both of his teammates stayed until the end.
This year, we saw Jeremy return to “Naked and Afraid XL” once more, for the ninth season of the popular spin-off. Premiering on 31 July 2022, the season features 12 returning contestants, and is set in the freezing Rocky Mountains of Montana. He was paired with Trish Bulinsky and Rod Biggs; during their time on the show, they were faced with a number of challenges in the freezing conditions, including the danger of frostbite and hypothermia.
Prior to his first appearance on the show, Jeremy worked as a commercial painter for a business located in Monroe, Louisiana. In his spare time, he likes to go hunting and fishing with his friends. His Instagram bio reads ‘I like to get dirty and naked’, while his catchphrase is ‘You’re either the prey or the predator’.
“Naked and Afraid”
Since its premiere in 2013, “Naked and Afraid” has become one of Discovery Channel’s most popular shows. Every episode follows a pair of survivalists who are thrown into wilderness with no clothes, food or equipment, and are only allowed to bring one useful item, such as a knife or a fire starter. Upon arriving, the contestants are then provided with a cross-body bag which contains a map, and a personal camera which they get to use to document their journey when the camera crew isn’t around. In case of an emergency, contestants are free to tap out at any point during the challenge.
Over the course of 14 seasons, “Naked and Afraid” has taken their contestants across various destinations, including Madagascar, Thailand, Australia, Croatia, and more. Following the success of the show, it’s spawned a spin-off series featuring past contestants, entitled “Naked and Afraid XL”, and two international adaptations.
The wildly popular series attracts over 1.5 million viewers per episode, on average, although it has been met with mixed reception from the critics and claims that it’s not as authentic as it appears.
Some interviews of the former contestant reveal that there is more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. Apparently, filming locations are not as isolated as the show claims, while the contestants are always at walking distance from the production camp. Season three contestant, Honora Bown, has even made claims that she had come in contact with the local residents during the challenge, as a town was only a few miles away from the filming location. On a few separate occasions, contestants have revealed that they took food and other supplies from the crew, and even from the locals, which is contrary to the spirit of the show.
Although the challenge of living entirely naked in the wilderness is no easy feat, even with the crew apparently lurking around the corner, “Naked and Afraid” contestants are not granted a prize for completing the challenge, or outlasting other competitors. As a part of the series’ branding challengers are competing for the prize of ‘their pride and sense of accomplishment’, according to the official Discovery Channel description. However, rumors have been circulating the Internet that the contestants receive up to $25,000 for their appearance on the show. According to an interview some of the female stars of the show gave for “People” magazine, their pay is nowhere close to that, as they only receive ‘a few thousand dollars’.