Behind-The-Scenes Horror Stories From Reality TV

By now, we should all know that reality TV often has little to do with actual reality. That's why it's often considered trashy television. A lot of juicy moments are staged; people act surprised when they have known for a while what's going to happen; and the audition to get on a famous show is often a long and daunting process. If you don't believe it, there's a Reddit thread that totally backs up these claims.

But despite all of this, many reality shows are still unbelievably addictive and incredibly entertaining to watch. Even (and maybe especially) when things go horribly wrong. Episodes of The Bachelor, Survivor, and The Biggest Loser look fairly enjoyable from afar, but contestants often face difficult experiences on set. Plus, the public scrutiny and desire to succeed leave devastating effects on the participants' psyche. 

From contestants being forced to film for long hours to people risking their lives to produce reality shows, these behind-the-scenes stories from reality TV are pretty grim. You won't believe the tales.


  • Two Contestants Died While Filming French 'Survivor'

    Two Contestants Died While Filming French 'Survivor'
    Photo: TF1

    Back in 2013, a season of Koh-Lanta, the French version of Survivor, was canceled after one of the contestants died on the initial day of filming. According to The Hollywood Reporter, 25-year-old contestant Gerald Babin suffered from fatal cardiac arrest. Babin had leaped from a boat, then ​​​​​​competed in a challenge involving tug of war.

    Shortly afterward, he developed painful arm cramps and required professional care. En route to a nearby medical facility, Babin experienced multiple episodes of cardiac arrest and passed away prior to arriving at the hospital.  

    But the horror story doesn't end there. The doctor who was supervising the contestants killed himself following Babin's death. Production of the show later resumed, and Koh-Lanta remained on the air.

  • Accidents On Set Of Discovery Channel's Military-Themed Shows Have Led To Deaths

    Four people have died while filming military-themed shows for the Discovery Channel. In 2012, during a shoot at a Colorado Springs rifle range, two smoke bombs unexpectedly detonated and darted through the air at 150 mph, striking and killing a woman named Terri Flanell. The producers had intended to generate a light fog when the explosives suddenly started to flare up. The woman's family filed a lawsuit for wrongful death, but it was later dismissed.

    In 2013, while producing an untitled TV show in Los Angeles, CA, three men were victims of a deadly helicopter crash. At roughly 3:30 am, the aircraft smashed into the ground at 750-acre Polsa Rosa Ranch, near Soledad Canyon Road and the Angeles National Forest. The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that the crash was likely due to the pilot being distracted by the camera operator's key light, which reduced his line of vision.

  • A Star Of MTV’s 'Buckwild' Died Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

    A Star Of MTV’s 'Buckwild' Died Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
    Photo: MTV

    MTV’s Buckwild was a reality TV show following nine people who did their best to enjoy life in the hills and hollows of West Virginia. After a relatively successful first season in 2013, the network decided to renew the show for a second installment. However, production was halted when the star of the series, Shain Gandee, was found dead with two others in a car.

    Gandee reportedly left a bar late one Saturday night with two others to go four-wheeling - or mudding - an activity featured several times on the show. Their Ford Bronco drove into an especially muddy pit and got stuck. Mud started to clog up the car's muffler, causing Gandee and his fellow passengers to succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning. The MTV show was canceled.

  • A Lot Of Former Reality Contestants Killed Themselves

    A Lot Of Former Reality Contestants Killed Themselves
    Photo: ABC

    In late 2010, Julien Hug, a Season 5 contestant featured on The Bachelorette, killed himself. Former competitors on Season 14 of The Bachelor, Gia Allemand and Lex McAllister, also died by suicide in 2013 and 2016, respectively. 

    Moreover, according to an article in the New York Post, in only a decade, at least 21 reality TV actors died by suicide. This includes former participants on shows like Kitchen Nightmares, Storage Wars, and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

  • A Contestant On 'Megan Wants A Millionaire' Died By Suicide After Allegedly Killing His Wife

    A Contestant On 'Megan Wants A Millionaire' Died By Suicide After Allegedly Killing His Wife
    Photo: VH1

    Megan Wants a Millionaire was a short-lived dating show starring Megan Hauserman, in which 17 wealthy, single men competed for her love. Among the 17 was Ryan Alexander Jenkins. After VH1 aired episode 3 of Hauserman's show, homicide allegations began to emerge against Jenkins, with authorities viewing him as the only person of interest.

    After Hauserman eliminated Jenkins from her show, he met beachwear model Jasmine Fiore and married her two days later. Fiore​​​​ was later discovered dead, her body badly beaten, in a suitcase inside a dumpster. Authorities charged Jenkins with Fiore's slaying and had an arrest warrant issued, but he managed to elude police. Jenkins fled to a Canadian motel for a few days, then killed himself there.

    Megan Wants a Millionaire was canceled shortly after the accusations were made.

  • Some 'Biggest Loser' Contestants Allegedly Approached The Brink Of Death During Filming

    Some 'Biggest Loser' Contestants Allegedly Approached The Brink Of Death During Filming
    Photo: NBC

    A lot of controversy has always surrounded The Biggest Loser - from viewers claiming that the trainers are too rough to health critics scrutinizing what the contestants are allowed to eat. Add in the fact that most of the contestants go from being completely sedentary to immediately overwhelmed by exercise, things can get problematic fast.

    Over the years, several former contestants have opened up about how rough they truly had it during production:

    • Season 1 winner Ryan Benson claimed he had starved himself for the show. After the season's filming had wrapped up, Benson said his health had declined to the point where blood appeared in his urine.
    • Season 2 contestant, Suzanne Mendonca, recalled her experience: "I was eating baby food. I'd wrap myself in garbage bags to sweat. We’d use the sauna for six hours a day. We stopped eating and drinking and would work out for four hours a day. People were passing out in the doctor's office." 
    • Season 3 contestant, Kai Hibbard, claimed, "My hair was falling out. My period stopped. I was only sleeping three hours a night." She said her health had suffered during the show's production, but felt pressured to continue losing weight. She added that the series is a "fat-shaming disaster."
    • Contestants were also reportedly cut off from communicating with their families.