What will happen to Neverland ranch after doco allegations?

Thursday - 14/03/2019 18:03
Michael Jackson in the grounds of his beloved NeverlandSource:Supplied
Michael Jackson in the grounds of his beloved NeverlandSource:Supplied
It was touted as a children’s paradise, but new revelations about Michael Jackson allege Neverland was the site of countless acts of horror.

It was touted as a children’s paradise, named after a fictional island where Peter Pan lives. 

But instead Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch was allegedly the site of countless instances of child sex abuse, according to claims made by the singer’s former staff in the documentary Leaving Neverland. 

The sprawling estate was Jackson’s home for 15 years before the singer fled the property over allegations of child molestation, vowing never to return to his dream home.

After Jackson left Neverland, it fell into disrepair and has now been for sale since 2015 with no prospective buyers despite the price being repeatedly slashed.

MORE: Chilling footage of Michael Jackson ‘shopping for wedding ring’ 


‘COWBOY COUNTRY’ 

In 1977, real estate developer William Bone began building Sycamore Valley Ranch, a sprawling Tudor-style home in “cowboy country”, otherwise known as California’s Santa Ynez Valley, Architectural Digest reported.

On the 1093-hectare property Mr Bone constructed a 3900sq m main house, as well as outbuildings and extensive gardens complete with a 1.6-hectare lake featuring a stone bridge and waterfall.

A decade after Mr Bone purchased the property he sold it to Jackson for a reported $AU27.62 million.

Jackson swiftly renamed the ranch Neverland, a tribute to beloved children’s tale Peter Pan and a character Jackson would only become more obsessed with in the years that followed.

At the height of his fame following the release of his seventh album Bad, Jackson found it hard to go out in public without being mobbed by adoring fans, making the secluded Neverland both a necessary purchase and welcome respite for the singer.

MORE: What Leaving Neverland doesn’t show you 

The property had a train station modelled after Disneyland. Picture: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
The property had a train station modelled after Disneyland. Picture: Frazer Harrison/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

 

A statue of a young child stands near a Michael Jackson sign on the Neverland Ranch. Picture: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
A statue of a young child stands near a Michael Jackson sign on the Neverland Ranch. Picture: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

 

One of the rooms at Neverland Ranch. Picture: Leaving Neverland
One of the rooms at Neverland Ranch. Picture: Leaving Neverland Source:Supplied
 
Safechuck alleges some of the sexual relations took place in these Indian teepees at Neverland. Picture: Leaving Neverland
Safechuck alleges some of the sexual relations took place in these Indian teepees at Neverland. Picture: Leaving NeverlandSource:Supplied

 

Besides renaming the property, Jackson also set about turning Neverland into a children’s paradise.

He built tennis and basketball courts, a zoo and a private amusement park featuring a ferris wheel, bumper cars, games arcade and rollercoaster.

The singer also added statues of children around the property and built a train station with two steam locomotives modelled after the famous attraction at Disneyland.

With Neverland’s transformation complete, Jackson invited his first guests to the ranch; James Safechuck and his family.

MORE: Oprah’s After Neverland special is essential viewing


‘YOU COULD SEE IF SOMEONE WAS COMING’ 

In Leaving Neverland, Mr Safechuck recounts in harrowing detail the locations around the ranch where he alleges he was abused by Jackson.

“There was a castle in the theme park and upstairs there was a bedroom. You could see if somebody was coming. It had just a small bed. Up there, we would have sex,” he recalled.

Mr Safechuck, now 40, claimed Jackson would also molest him in an “Indian fort with teepees”, a games room with a secret bedroom upstairs, a room in a movie theatre and a secluded guesthouse filled with memorabilia.

In addition, Jackson allegedly continued the abuse in his main bedroom overnight while Mr Safechuck’s mother Stephanie slept away from the main house in a guest property.

“The routine was, we would get a blanket and lay it down on the floor inside of the closet next to his main bed so we could close the doors and have several doors people had to get through,” he explained.

The entrance to pop star Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch. Picture: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
The entrance to pop star Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch. Picture: AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillSource:News Limited
 
One of the amusement park attractions at his Neverland ranch. Picture: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
One of the amusement park attractions at his Neverland ranch. Picture: AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillSource:News Limited
 
More fairground attractions at the Ranch. Picture: Stewart Cook/REX/Shutterstock
More fairground attractions at the Ranch. Picture: Stewart Cook/REX/ShutterstockSource:Rex/Shutterstock

 

“There was just a hall that leads to his room, there were bells so you could have a moment of hearing them trip and at least it alarmed him to when people are coming.”

Jackson would host a steady stream of boys and their families at Neverland, with his behaviour arousing the suspicion of those who worked for him.

Former Neverland ranch managers Mariano and Faye Quindoy, who managed the property from 1988 to 1990 before leaving due to a pay dispute, claimed they had “reason to believe” abuse was happening there.

Details of the married couple’s 1993 interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, released after Jackson’s 2009 death, reveal Mr Quindoy alleged he “saw the singer fondle young boys on at least two occasions”.

FBI agents travelled to the Philippines to interview Jackson’s former employees as part of an investigation into sex abuse allegations made by Jordan Chandler.

“He and his wife said they had ‘reason to believe’ the 13-year-old’s allegations against Jackson,” the file notes read, according to The Daily Beast. 

 

One of Jackson’s bedrooms at Neverland Ranch. Picture: Leaving Neverland
One of Jackson’s bedrooms at Neverland Ranch. Picture: Leaving Neverland Source:Supplied

 

 
Bronze statues line the drive leading to the front of the main house at Neverland. Picture: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Bronze statues line the drive leading to the front of the main house at Neverland. Picture: AP Photo/Carolyn KasterSource:AP

 

 
One of Neverland’s bathrooms. Picture: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
One of Neverland’s bathrooms. Picture: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

 

Jackson was never prosecuted over Jordan’s allegations and later settled a civil suit for a rumoured $20 million with the Chandler family.

Meanwhile, Adrian McManus, who worked as Jackson’s maid from 1990 to 1994, told 60 Minutes last month she felt uneasy cleaning up after the pop star at Neverland.

Ms McManus, whose eyewitness account was disputed by other staff during Jackson’s 2005 child sex abuse trial, claimed she would often find little boys’ underwear either “on the floor with Michael’s, or they were in the jacuzzi”, as well as “a lot of vaseline” around Neverland.


‘IT’S NOT A HOME ANYMORE’ 

Jackson’s fantasy world came crashing down in November 2003 when it was raided by law enforcement as part of a fresh inquiry into sex abuse allegations levelled at the singer.

During the raid on the ranch a large amount of adult heterosexual pornography was found along with books containing erotica, however no child pornography was found.

While Jackson was later acquitted of all child molestation charges, he claimed the raid had ruined Neverland for him.

“I won’t live there ever again,” he told US current affairs show 6 0 Minutes in December 2003. “I’ll visit Neverland. It’s a house now, it’s not a home anymore.”

The singer made good on his promise, living overseas in Bahrain as a guest of the Gulf nation’s crown prince and briefly in Ireland.

An outdoor pool with a diving board at the ranch. Picture: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
An outdoor pool with a diving board at the ranch. Picture: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

 

 
James Safechuck pictured swimming in one of Neverland’s pools as shown in the Leaving Neverland documentary. Picture: Picture: Leaving Neverland
James Safechuck pictured swimming in one of Neverland’s pools as shown in the Leaving Neverland documentary. Picture: Picture: Leaving NeverlandSource:Supplied

 

 
Lisa Marie Presley and then husband Michael Jackson go to greet children at his Neverland ranch in 1995. Picture: AFP PHOTO/Files
Lisa Marie Presley and then husband Michael Jackson go to greet children at his Neverland ranch in 1995. Picture: AFP PHOTO/FilesSource:AFP

 

He later returned to the US to live as a recluse in much smaller properties in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where he died of an accidental overdose in 2009.

But bad memories weren’t the only thing that kept Jackson away from Neverland, with the singer struggling to maintain the property that reportedly fell into disrepair because of spiralling debts.

In 2008, Jackson narrowly avoided a foreclosure auction of Neverland when investment company Colony Capital LLC bought the multimillion-dollar outstanding loan he had on the property.

Court documents revealed the singer was spending a staggering $AU42 million more than he was earning, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Michael Jackson and James Safechuck
Michael Jackson and James SafechuckSource:Supplied

 

 
An indoor spa bath as seen during a tour of the ranch by NBC after Jackson’s death. Picture: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
An indoor spa bath as seen during a tour of the ranch by NBC after Jackson’s death. Picture: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

 

 
Another bedroom at the ranch featuring portraits of Jackson on the walls. Picture: Leaving Neverland
Another bedroom at the ranch featuring portraits of Jackson on the walls. Picture: Leaving NeverlandSource:Supplied

 

 
A room with a double sided mirror looking onto Neverland’s cinema. Picture: Leaving Neverland
A room with a double sided mirror looking onto Neverland’s cinema. Picture: Leaving NeverlandSource:Supplied

 

NEVERLAND NO MORE 

Neverland’s future became even more uncertain when Jackson died, with reports claiming the singer had agreed to a series of London concerts in order to earn enough money to buy Neverland back.

Following his funeral, Jackson’s family was rumoured to be divided on plans to lay his body to rest in a state-sanctioned cemetery at Neverland that his fans could visit in a “Graceland-type arrangement”, E News reported at the time.

Ultimately, plans to turn Neverland into a place of pilgrimage never materialised, with the ranch instead put up for sale in 2015 by Colony Capital for $AU141 million ($US100 million).

Interestingly, the property wasn’t advertised as a Jackson shrine, with realtors instead referring to the home’s original name Sycamore Valley Ranch.

It was discounted to $AU95 million ($US67 million) in 2017 and last month the price was slashed again, coinciding with the release of Leaving Neverland. 

The property is now listed for 70 per cent of its original asking price at $AU43 million ($U31 million).

But given the skeletons in Neverland’s closet, it seems unlikely a buyer will be willing to shell out millions on the property anytime soon.

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