The Tragic Truth About HGTV Stars Ben And Erin Napier

Husband and wife duo Ben and Erin Napier have made quite the name for themselves, restoring historic homes one by one in their charming hometown of Laurel, Mississippi, all while HGTV's "Home Town" cameras are rolling. "We made the pilot and assumed it probably won't be on TV, it was just for fun. And then it was on TV, and it was 2.2 million people watched it," Erin recalled during a 2021 interview with CBS News about how the couple landed their very own television show. And the good times just keep on rolling! In September 2023, HGTV announced Season 8 had just been greenlit. Erin later reshared the news on her Instagram Stories with a personal message that read, "Always grateful to be coming back to your TVs" (via Heavy). As one can imagine, as the couple's popularity soared, so did the Napiers' net worth.

Sadly, it's not been all stellar television ratings, successful spinoffs, and more money in the bank for the married couple and television personalities. The Napiers have experienced their fair share of tragedy and struggles as well. Here's the tragic truth about the Napiers.

Ben and Erin Napier survived a frightening tornado

As Mississippi natives, Ben and Erin Napier aren't exactly strangers when it comes to tornadoes — but that doesn't mean they aren't still scary! During an appearance on Southern Living's "Biscuits and Jam" podcast in October 2023, Erin opened up about the couple being at home with their 2-year-old daughter, Helen, when a tornado blew through their town. "The tornado siren started going off. We knew bad weather was coming," Erin recounted to host Sid Evans.

Fortunately, the Napiers were able to seek shelter in a closet underneath the stairway in their historic 1925 Craftsman home. Once it was all over, the family emerged unharmed, and the house remained unscathed, minus some broken glass. Erin credited the home for keeping them safe. "We could feel the house. It felt alive in a way that really scared me," Erin confessed. "But it also felt sturdy. It felt like, okay, it's fixing to do its job, and it's going to protect us, it's going to shelter us, and it did." Alexa, play "The Bones" by Maren Morris.

Ben and Erin Napier dealt with a stalker

The good thing about fame? Everyone knows you. The bad thing about fame? EVERYONE knows you. Sadly, this is one lesson Ben and Erin Napier learned the hard way. In May 2022, Erin opened up on Instagram about a harrowing incident involving their daughter, Helen, that took place one year prior. The story goes that during a normal day of filming, Ben started receiving messages from members of their tight-knit Laurel community warning them about a man with an ankle monitor dressed in a Star Wars stormtrooper suit. Ben was told that the man was saying bizarre things like, "God sent me here to protect the women of Laurel, specifically little Helen." The couple later learned that the man was from California and was residing at a home in Laurel, only a block from the Napiers' residence. The only belongings the man had in the house were a "suitcase and these toys for when my 3-year-old daughter 'comes over to visit,'" including four Barbie dolls, a Barbie pool, a stuffed animal, and a baseball. 

In the weeks after the incident, the couple opted to heighten their security. Then, on May 21, 2021, the Laurel Leader-Call reported that Napiers filed a restraining order against a 58-year-old man named John Gaffney. Fortunately, the Laurel Police Department chief, Tommy Cox, confirmed that Gaffney had since vacated Laurel and was back in Santa Barbara. PHEW!

Erin Napier suffered a perforated appendix and subsequent medical trauma

As the old saying goes, "You can have all the riches and success in the world, but if you don't have your health, you have nothing." Unfortunately, Erin Napier knows that all too well, as she was hospitalized back in 2014 with a serious medical issue. Sadly, she suffered from debilitating symptoms for a whopping 10 years before they figured out the root cause of her chronic stomach pain: a perforated appendix. Fortunately, once she received an appendectomy, the pain went away. Sadly, Napier revealed in a candid January 2022 Instagram post that debilitating "panic attacks" and "spiraling thoughts" that stemmed from the medical trauma showed up in its place. It wasn't until years later, through the help of a therapist, that Napier learned living with a chronic illness for so long left her with an "extreme fear and preoccupation with sickness, nausea in particular," and often tipped her into an unnecessary fight or flight mode that wreaked havoc on her mental health.

While Napier was careful to admit she was still working "to untangle" all of the ramifications of her past appendix issues every day, she admitted it was cathartic to discuss it with her followers. "We've all got our personal struggles. But isn't it so nice to have this place for editing the hard parts out?" she penned about the painful and stressful ordeal. "There's always a light in the darkness," she declared.

Ben Napier underwent shoulder surgery and subsequent paid medication blunder

Unfortunately, Ben Napier is no stranger to the aches and pains of life either. In March 2023, the HGTV star underwent shoulder surgery. "Rotator cuff repaired, bone spur shaved off, cartilage trimmed, best nurse in the biz," Erin Napier penned in an Instagram post along with a photo of her hubby posted up on the Napier family couch while sporting a sling.

In January, ahead of the Season 8 premiere of "Home Town," Ben gave fans a little more insight into his recovery. According to Ben, the most challenging part of recuperating was not being able to help while filming. "I need to jump in and help, and it was hard to not do that," Ben confessed during an interview with People. Well, maybe that and timing his pain medication just right. The story goes that during his recovery, Ben mistakenly took his pain medication prior to a speaking event at Southern Baptist University. "It hit while I was onstage," he revealed. "My confidence soared, and I could not keep a train of thought," he explained. "The whole time I knew what was going on." Well, at least the speaking engagement wasn't boring!

Ben Napier found himself at the center of a massive fraud scandal

Ben and Erin Napier's reputation is just about as squeaky clean as a reality star couples' can get. Alas, one particular incident threatened to decimate their pristine public persona. In May 2022, retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre and 37 others were named in a civil lawsuit launched by the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS). The lawsuit alleged that $77 million of the state's welfare funds had been squandered on other things — including a state-of-the-art volleyball facility at Favre's alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi.

As one can imagine, the fancy-schmancy volleyball facility needed lockers, and the story goes that the then-Mississippi governor Phil Bryant called up Ben for a recommendation. After text messages between the then-governor and Favre were released, an investigative reporter for Mississippi Today tweeted out some of the messages and alleged that Ben had "assisted with" the construction of said fancy wooden lockers.

Erin, however, had a bone to pick with the reporter's allegations and immediately came to her hubby's defense. "Ben didn't build lockers for anyone. The governor texted asking him if he could recommend someone to build wooden lockers, and Ben offered a recommendation for a cabinet maker we work with. You should get total clarity on a fact like this before you tweet it," she admonished the reporter in a now-deleted tweet (via Heavy). PHEW! Major PR crisis and reputation ruiner averted.