In 2007, a group of men snuck into Michael Jackson’s former home, The Neverland Ranch. The loud wind gave them protection as they slid past the guard truck that was stationed at the end of the road. The men wanted to see what few people in the world have experienced. What they got was a nightmare.
The land, known as Neverland Ranch, is located on 3,000 acres in Los Olivos, California. The land was developed in 1977 and was known as Sycamore Valley Ranch. Jackson bought it in 1988. He renamed the property after the imaginary island in Peter Pan. Neverland was where children never grew up. Jackson lived at Neverland most of the time. He also added a petting zoo and an amusement park. It may seem like a fantasy, but it was anything but.
On 2003, Jackson was on trial for allegations of child molestation. Neverland ranch was raided by 70 police officers of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department. Even though they looked for evidence, Jackson was acquitted. Jackson claimed that the police officers “violated” his property, and it no longer felt like home, so he never returned to Neverland. That started the decline of Neverland.
All of the facilities at Neverland were closed, and a lot of the staff fired, three years after Jackson left the property. Since Jackson didn’t pay the bill, the power was shut off. The property was up in real estate limbo. In December 2007, a group of photographers went to the ranch. They decided to sneak in to explore the kingdom that was abandoned by their king.
Vice magazine interviewed the photographers but hid their true identity with fake names because trespassing is definitely illegal. They’re weren’t exactly what you would call “normal” photographers. They were self-proclaimed “urban explorers,” meaning they snuck into abandoned buildings to take photographs. But this just so happened to be the first time they ever broke into someone’s home.
“It was so compelling to do it; I couldn’t not go in because the opportunity was there. But at the same time, it just felt wrong. It was this constant friction between fascination and, I’ve got to get the f*** out of here, I shouldn’t be in here,” said the man with the alias Donatello. They all laughed when they were asked what the strangest thing they saw was.
The men all agreed that it was all strange. The man they called Raphael described a logo they saw all over the ranch that had a little boy in blue pajamas sitting on the moon. “That thing was painted on the ground, like, 60 feet wide. It was on the signs, on the bumper cars, it was on the coach station where they parked the coach,” said Raphael. Another weird thing was Jackson’s fan mail.
Sitting on top of a table were stacks upon stacks of mail. The men didn’t read most of them, but one letter, in particular, caught their eye: a picture of the prosecutor in Jackson’s molestation case, Tom Sneddon. Someone had drawn fire surrounding his head and devil horns were added, as well. Their next move was to the kitchen, where the weirdness just continued.
According to the men, the kitchen would have been paradise for a child. They found a “Children of the World” menu, with options like macaroni and cheese and peanut butter and jelly, printed on a chalkboard. The walk-in pantry was also stocked full of kids favorites, like grape soda! Even one of the photographers gave into temptation and took a sip.
Raphael got thirsty while they were in the kitchen. He saw that there were quite a few bottles of grape soda, so he opened one. After he drank it, he wiped it clean of fingerprints, and hid it in some bushes. It didn’t take long before the photographers realized that more than just the kitchen was meant for kids.
Raphael began to wonder if any of it had to do with Jackson’s molestation trial. “There’s the kids’ stuff, there’s toys everywhere, there’s the huge arcade—a giant child-magnet,” he said. Not all of the men agreed. Some of them the house was just more proof that Jackson just had eclectic taste. Then the men began to speak about the outside of the mansion.
There were 10 rooms in Neverland’s main building, but that wasn’t the most impressive part. While Jackson lived at Neverland, he added an arcade, a petting zoo, a big garden, amusement park rides, and two railroad stations! Aside from the petting zoo, because it was too far, the photographers were able to see everything! And even get a little spooked, as well!
There was a clock inside of the garden that had stopped due to the power being turned off. While he was looking at the pictures months later, Donatello noticed that he took the photo of the clock almost at the same time that the clock had stopped: 2:55. But that wasn’t the creepiest part.
Donatello couldn’t help but notice that everything inside of the house was in absolutely perfect condition. The furniture and decorations were dust free and some of the things were covered in tarps for protection. It was apparent that someone was still cleaning the ranch, but that didn’t last for too much longer.
The ranch turned into ruins once Michael Jackson passed away in 2009. The amusement park rides were transferred to the California State Fair. Its name returned to Sycamore Valley Ranch in 2015 when it was put up for sale for $100 million. Due to lack of interest, the price was eventually decreased to $87 million. At this time, early 2018, the property is still on the market.