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Naked And Afraid Contestant Dies At 35 Under 'Mysterious Circumstances'

Naked and Afraid
(Image credit: Discovery Channel)

A two-time contestant from Naked and Afraid has died under what is being described as “mysterious circumstances.” On July 17th, Melanie Rauscher was found dead next to several canisters of air duster. Her body was found in Prescott, Arizona, where she was said to be dog-sitting. She was 35.

TMZ reports that the homeowners found Melanie Rauscher’s body in the guest room upon returning home from their vacation. It was unclear if she consumed the contents of the air duster cans. There were no obvious signs of foul play, officers from the Prescott Police Department reported, and they did not find a suicide note or drug paraphernalia. The dog Rauscher was looking after was reportedly fine. 

The 35-year-old appeared on the popular Discovery Channel reality show Naked and Afraid two times — once in 2013 and then on the spinoff Naked and Afraid XL in 2015. Fellow castmate Jeremy McClaa posted a tribute on his Facebook page, remembering Melanie Rauscher for her friendship and laughter. He said in the post:

She came into my life in a way I can’t explain. We had such a chemistry on the show and it blossomed into a friendship that goes beyond 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. You’re gone to soon and taken from us to early. You’ll always be my Mel. I love you and I’ll see you again one day. The world lost an amazing person. Please keep her family and friends in your prayers. See you again my Queen.

Her obituary also mentioned her “boisterous laugh,” remembering her as a natural comedian, whose passion for challenging herself led to her wanting to be on Naked and Afraid, which pushed its contestants to their limits. According to the obituary:

She was an avid outdoor enthusiast who loved nature and all creatures big and small. Melanie loved camping & hiking and finding adventure wherever she could.

She certainly proved that love for adventure on the survival competition show. While some contestants have had to quit Naked and Afraid on the spot due to their physical illness, lack of sustenance or intensely painful bites from bullet ants, Melanie Rauscher not only persevered through the 21-day ordeal, she returned a couple of years later for the more challenging sister series Spinoff Naked and Afraid XL gave its survivalists the super-sized challenge of surviving in the woods for 40 days, nearly double the time of the OG series.

On XL, the reality TV vet faced a number of obstacles that tested her skills while also frightening some viewers at home. When the Discovery show sent her and others to Africa, she had to contend with her fear of snakes. Though she seemed to be a bit anxious about the prospect, she expressed a bit of optimism when it came to facing her fear head on.

A celebration of life for Melanie Rauscher has been planned for October in her hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her family said that donations can be made to the PTSD Foundation of America, which was an organization that the late competitor "had a deep devotion" for.

It must be devastating for Melanie Rauscher’s loved ones to be left with questions after her death at such a young age, and one can only hope that they'll receive closure in some way. Our condolences go out to her friends and family during this difficult time. 

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.