psychedelic healing shack in Detroit, MI
Photo by Michelle Lhooq

Inside Detroit’s Notorious “Psychedelic Healing Shack”

Allegations of abuse surround, perhaps, the trippiest place in America's suburbs

DoubleBlind Mag

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Updated November 23, 2022

Gather around the fire, children, and let me tell you about one of the trippiest wormholes I fell down this year. 

On a cold winter night in Detroit, a 55-year-old reiki healer who fucks with my newsletter picks me up from my hotel. “I’m going to take you to this spot called the Psychedelic Healing Shack,” she says, lighting up a pink doobie in her car. Simply described as a vegetarian cafe on Google, the Shack is a polarizing place in the Detroit community; its Yelp has only five, one-star reviews. One person praises it as a “raw, spiritual” utopia far from the New Age hipster scourge, while others decry it as “disturbing” with rampant allegations of abuse. A DJ friend living in Detroit laughed nervously when I asked what he thought: “Uh, didn’t someone die there?” 

It turns out that the Psychedelic Healing Shack is one of the most notorious places of ill repute in Detroit. Two years ago, a rapper named Max Julian, who was a regular at the Shack, was found dead on the property’s playground after what Detroit Police believe was an overdose. Following Julian’s death, a petition circulated calling for the Shack to get shut down, while a Reddit thread emerged detailing allegations of abuse that have surrounded the place—including that sexual predators and pedophiles have been allowed to hang out on the premises. 

“Dr. Bob is one of the biggest pieces of shit I’ve had the displeasure of ever meeting and I hope he rots,” wrote one user, who said that on one particularly wild night, he was hit by a glass bottle that shattered his face and left him with permanent nerve damage. Another user alleged that he and ten other kids were molested while hanging out there, calling it a “local pedo ring.” 

The irony that a place called the “Psychedelic Healing Shack” could, in fact, be a hotbed of abuse and sketchy behavior was not surprising; as psychedelics go increasingly mainstream, concerns are mounting that the professionalized language of “wellness” and “therapy,” as well as counterculture of libertarian hedonism, can obscure a dark underbelly of sexual abuse and misconduct. Despite concerns about my personal safety, I decided to visit the Shack myself to find out first-hand what was going on there—and try to shed some light on its shady secrets. 

The reiki healer and I drive far from the gleaming new high rises of downtown Detroit, into a neighborhood near 7 Mile. Parked outside the house in a van are two of her hippie friends; they greet me with a paper bag stacked with eight jars of primo nugs and the amethyst crystals they used to grow these sparkling strains. Gorgeous. 

As for the Shack, well, it is a rainbow-splattered tubular growth spurting off the sidewalk on a dreary strip of suburbia. Cars driving by slow down to stare at this abomination—the dragon sculpture snaking under a weeping willow, the tendrils snaking up the stairs. What a piece of work:

psychedelic healing shack in Detroit, MI

We walk through the door and are sucked into this weird alternate dimension. To our left, three dudes jamming in the pitch dark—one hunched over an old piano, another on guitar, the third punching synth pads. Without any lights on this side of the room, all I can see are their silhouettes, but the music is sad and haunting. In the hallway are shelves stacked with jars and jars of herbs: catnip, kratom, myrrh, Juniper berries, San Pedro cactus, next to strange plants I have never seen before. The ceiling was painted by someone on acid, and a slow ceiling fan casts strange shadows on the centerpiece: a demonic-looking monkey god shrine, in front of which a giant half-wolf black hound is sleeping.

statue in psychedelic healing shack
Courtesy of Michelle Lhooq

“What is this place?!” I whisper to the reiki healer. Her eyes are as wide as mine.

We walk further in. A man reading a book at a table glances up with a furtive look and scampers away from our gaze. Three people are smoking blunts at a table and loudly debating some melodrama around a documentary they are trying to film about this place. We take a seat, and the proprietor of the place—a chiropractor who everyone calls “Dr. Bob”—shuffles in like a gnome with a limp, takes our order with a little chuckle, and then scampers off into the chaotic kitchen, whistling as he fixes us smoothies and vegan bowls. I don’t remember much about this night because those goddamn hippies got me so stoned, but I will never forget the climatic finale, when a fabulous Black gay elder (who told me he used to sing in Universal Robot Band and helped to start Movement festival) pounds the table and shouts a chanting prayer for me—entirely in Japanese. 

“THE HOLY BOBLE” manuscript that I find in Dr. Bob’s office | Courtesy of Michelle Lhooq

This night felt so surreal that I knew I had to come back to confront Dr. Bob about the allegations surrounding him. Especially after I Googled around a bit more and found: Facebook videos of the guy who overdosed at the Shack, accusations of Dr. Bob harboring pedophiles and partying with minors, and stoner poet John Sinclair accusing him of basically being a broke bitch who couldn’t afford to buy an espresso machine for the weed cafe they were going to open at the Shack. So on my final afternoon in Detroit, I take a bus in the rain and show up at his purple door. 

This time the Shack is frigid and still, like the whirling hot air from our merrymaking has swirled out the door and left the place moribund. I don’t know if this dread I feel is real, or just the pangs of doubt now sewn in my mind. Is it possible to tell if someone is a creep or a crackpot just from the way they crack your neck? 

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I am here to tell you that when I asked Dr Bob to show me his chiropractic skills, his fingers were wintry but wisened, and they never lingered anywhere for too long. Afterwards, as I lay on the massage table in the dark, he begins to talk—telling me his life story, and responding to the dark rumors that haunt the Shack’s reputation. 

Courtesy of Michelle Lhooq

By the time I left that night to go to a Theo Parrish loft party, I still didn’t know what to make of this shadowy space. Despite the commonly-held belief that psychedelics (compared to alcohol) do not engender violence, there’s a lot of toxicity happening in these spaces, too. The allegations of abuse surrounding the Shack undoubtedly make it a place that deserves to be treated with much caution—tourists coming to visit should be warned about its dark history, so that they know it might not be as eccentrically rosy as it seems. 

When I asked Dr. Bob directly whether he was harboring convicted sex abusers, his answer shocked me: “All three of them came to me and told me that they had been convicted, and they wanted to be open with me so I knew, and if I wasn’t comfortable they had to go. I could get into their background stories… but basically, I would let them be with my children alone, is how I felt about them.” 

Clearly, there is more to the story left to be uncovered, and I would like to return to Detroit to dig deeper into what’s going on. If you have been a victim of abuse at the Shack, or have more information about its dealings, please reach out to me directly. I hope to update you with more soon!

Michelle Lhooq investigates how counterculture is evolving in the age of platform capitalism, algorithmic oppression, and drug legalization. Subscribe here.

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DoubleBlind is a trusted resource for news, evidence-based education, and reporting on psychedelics. We work with leading medical professionals, scientific researchers, journalists, mycologists, indigenous stewards, and cultural pioneers. Read about our editorial policy and fact-checking process here.

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DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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