Last Updated: March 28, 2011

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Michael Jackson Neverland ranch a ghost town

Jackson's Neverland a ghost town

THE gates to Michael Jackson's fabled Neverland Ranch have swung open to reveal a shell of the fantasyland the boy-man created during his heyday. His chimpanzee Bubbles will not be going to his funeral. Source: The Daily Telegraph

THE gates to Michael Jackson's fabled Neverland Ranch have swung open to reveal a shell of the fantasyland the boy-man created during his heyday.

Gone was the zoo with its elephants, tigers and giraffe. The exotic snakes had long since slithered away and the amusement park rides have been dismantled.

The five-bedroom house, with its gigantic kitchen and media room where Jackson liked to screen his beloved Disney films, are nearly empty. His big-screen TV gone, only a mounting bracket remained.

There are some traces of the playland that the place had been in its glory days when Jackson opened it to neighbourhood children by the thousands and presided over the ensuing parties as the lord of the manor.

In its empty game room, for example, the door knobs shaped like miniature basketballs, baseballs and soccer balls remain. In a cupboard in the pool house, sandwiched between the pool and the tennis court, is a bucket of tennis balls.

And on a hill overlooking the house stands the fabled train station, a near replica of the one at Disneyland with its huge floral clock.

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It is still a stunning sight from Jackson's front yard although the railroad tracks behind are overgrown with weeds.

In the station lobby is a snack bar and above that, accessible by only the smallest of spiral staircases, is a crow's nest of sorts with a fireplace. There Jackson must have stood and watched his trains fill up with children taking trips around his 1000ha estate.

The ranch is also the site where authorities alleged Jackson had molested a boy. He was acquitted in 2005 and eventually left Neverland.

Visitors wandered through the first-floor, back bedroom where authorities said the incident occurred. Jackson once acknowledged in a television interview that he sometimes let children sleep with him in his bed in what he called innocent sleepovers.

Colony Capital LLC, the Los Angeles firm that established a joint venture with Jackson to rescue Neverland from foreclosure last year, opened the home to scores of journalists after a non-stop barrage of requests for access after the singer's death last week.

Colony officials have not said what they plan to do with the house and none of the handful of staff present would speak on the record.

No members of Jackson's family were seen on the premises.

Visitors were allowed to roam freely for the most part as more than a dozen gardeners and maintenance workers went about their duties.

The two-storey house has a number of labyrinth-like hallways and stairways. A large copper bathtub sits in the middle of a hallway.

Across from the front door of the main home is the guest house where Jackson's friend Elizabeth Taylor stayed when she married Larry Fortensky in 1991, at a Neverland wedding briefly interrupted by a skydiving gate-crasher.

Off-limits to everyone was the estate's now-empty amusement park where Jackson and others once rode bumper cars, a merry-go-round and a ferris wheel.

"My kids used to go out there and they had a good old time," Los Olivos resident Frank Palmer said.

"He was just a big kid himself, was what they told me. Michael loved it when they'd crash the go-carts."

Among other things Jackson left behind were dozens of metal sculptures of children in various states of play.

They were scattered across the estate, some showing children in modern dress, others looking more like kids who stepped out of a Charles Dickens novel.

One was a child climbing monkey bars, another was helping a girl reach a tree branch.

A slightly larger sculpture had the name Michael Jackson written beneath it.

From a distance, it looked nothing like him.


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