'Kentucky Ayahuasca': How a former bank robber and his controversial church found spirituality in a Schedule I drug

Aya Quest, a family-run church, is the focus of the new Viceland series which shows how Ayahuasca is being used to heal people suffering from depression, addiction and abuse


                            'Kentucky Ayahuasca': How a former bank robber and his controversial church found spirituality in a Schedule I drug

In the still of the night in a remote cabin near a lake in Kentucky, the sound of people screaming their lungs out could be heard loud and clear. This isn't a story of death. Instead, it's a story of rebirth. This is the story of how an ex-convict found himself after meeting a South American shaman in prison and how a drink that has been used by shamans for centuries in rituals can be used to make people discover who they truly are.

Jose screamed to let out all his anger and all he felt was blocking his emotions. He screamed to create ripples in the sky and to spiritually cleanse his soul of everything that was holding him back. The profound experience that participants of this spiritual quest go through is what awaits anyone who watches Viceland's new documentary series.

'Kentucky Ayahuasca' brings to audiences the story of how a Schedule I drug is being used by a shaman to heal people in the United States. Many people approach him for the chance to be a part of this experience but only a few are chosen.

(Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)
(Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)

They come from all over the country with problems such as depression, sexual addiction, and parental abuse and they all look for one thing: to be free of their pain, suffering, anguish, or addiction. 'Kentucky Ayahuasca' will take a deep dive into shamanism as you've never seen it before. The modern world is only now slowly opening up to the effects of certain drugs which were deemed too dangerous for regular use before.

For many centuries, indigenous tribes in the Amazon basin have been brewing a plant-based medicinal drink known as Ayahuasca. This herbal medicine is potent entheogenic tea which has hallucinogenic properties that some say is useful for confronting any kind of trauma or illness that has been stored in the body and the mind.

This experience allows each individual who drinks it to heal and recover in a much faster way that is still not seen with conventional forms of therapy.

'Kentucky Ayahuasca' tells the story of Steve Hupp, a former serial bank robber whose life changed after a robbery went wrong. He found himself sharing a prison cell with a short South American man who was awaiting deportation back to his native country of Peru. The man introduced himself to Hupp as Guadalupe and told him of how he was a shaman. This was the first time that the American had heard of the healing potential the so-called dangerous drug has.

(Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)
(Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)

Hupp and his family, wife Terry and stepson Nick, have opened up a controversial church. The church, Aya Quest, is controversial because it is located in the deepest part of America's notorious Bible Belt. The church, according to its website, is "where people can come together and find themselves through our sacrament: Ayahuasca". The church also promises that "people can build a relationship with Source, God, whatever verbiage one may choose to describe what they feel lies beyond as well as develop a connection to the natural world around us."

The experience offers everyone who goes there from across the country enlightenment, salvation or healing from any of their issues that include depression and PTSD, addiction of all kinds and recovery from emotional and physical abuse. Hupp and family are present throughout to help the lost souls through the ceremonies and their experience with this medicine. They also help the participants find the answers they have been desperately looking for. 

In the first episode of the series, we are introduced to Taylor, Summer, and Jose. Hupp introduces himself and his team to them and talks to them about what they can expect to gain out of the experience they are all about to go through.

(Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)
(Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)

The trio are obviously excited, Jose even says that people who consume Ayahuasca go through three different things; either they die, go crazy, or learn something. Hupp is insistent that Ayahuasca is not a drug but a spiritual portal to Mother Aya. Hupp's own experience with the drug began when his old cellmate Guadalupe sent him a two-liter bottle with the tea in it. It was marked "dog shampoo" and had a note with just two words accompanying it: be careful.

After that, there was no turning back for the former convict. With the hope that the strongest psychedelic known to man can help them find the solutions to their internal problems, the two women and one man in episode one embark on a spiritual journey which will leave them reborn.

The show was filmed over a period of eight to nine weeks in Burnside, Pulaski County, and a total of 30 participants had profound experiences in the 10-part series. Viceland's 'Kentucky Ayahuasca' premieres on Wednesday, November 28 at 10:00 pm ET/PT.