What will happen to Neverland ranch after documentary allegations?

Publish Date
Saturday, 16 March 2019, 3:46PM

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 and 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, reports news.com.au.

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.


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.

Bronze statues line the drive leading to the front of the main house at Neverland. Photo / AP

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 ($28.54m)

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.

Lisa Marie Presley and then husband Michael Jackson go to greet children at his Neverland ranch in 1995. Photo / Getty Images

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.

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

Michael Jackson and James Safechuck. Photo / Supplied

"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.

Safechuck alleges some of the sexual relations took place in these Indian teepees at Neverland. Photo / Leaving Neverland

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.

"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.

One of the amusement park attractions at his Neverland ranch. Photo / Getty Images

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".

More fairground attractions at the Ranch. Photo / Getty Images

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.

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

James Safechuck pictured swimming in one of Neverland's pools as shown in the Leaving Neverland documentary. Photo / Leaving Neverland

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.


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.

A room with a double sided mirror looking onto Neverland's cinema. Photo / Leaving Neverland

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 60 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.

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.

One of the rooms at Neverland Ranch. Photo / Leaving Neverland

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.


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.

The property had a train station modelled after Disneyland. Photo / Getty Images

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 ($145.9m)

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 ($98.3m) 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 ($44.5m)

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.