Neverland RanchJul 7th, 2009 | By Lindsay | Category: Michael Jackson Locations
Since we were in the area this past weekend celebrating the Fourth of July, I just had to drag my fiance out to Neverland Ranch yesterday to stalk pop star Michael Jackson’s former home. I had actually stalked the Ranch once before, back in November of 2007, but I wanted to stop by once again to see what sort of pandemonium would be taking place there due to the pop star’s recent death. Even though MJ hadn’t lived on the property since 2005, the home has been a mecca of sorts for the music legend’s fans ever since his sudden passing on June 25th. Michael purchased the 2,600 acre property, which at the time was known as Sycamore Valley Ranch, from resort and golf course developer William Bone in 1988. It was on this land that Jackson built his fantasy home, comprised of two railroads, a zoo, a ginormous swimming pool, a lake, a ferris wheel, a carousel, bumper cars, numerous other amusement park rides, an arcade, a private movie theatre, and a whopping twenty-two buildings. He dubbed the property Neverland after the home of his favorite storybook character, Peter Pan, aka the boy who wouldn’t grow up. In 2005, after being acquitted of child molestation charges, Jackson vacated the property and vowed never to return. He said that during the police investigation, the officers who searched his property for evidence had “violated” it and he no longer felt at home there. The property narrowly escaped foreclosure a few years later in May of 2008 when Jackson sold his loan and a part of his property rights to an investment company named Colony Capital LLC for about $35 million. The land is currently owned jointly by both Colony Capital LLC and Michael’s estate. At this point it is not known what is to become of the King of Pop’s former home, but there are talks of turning it into a sort of Graceland/Michael Jackson museum, which I think would be absolutely incredible to visit! But, yesterday, I had to settle for just stalking the Ranch’s exterior.
On the way to Neverland, I started to get a little nervous that due to massive crowds we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near the property. About four miles away from the Ranch, the above traffic sign was posted which blinked the warnings “Slow Traffic Ahead” and “Caution: Congestion Ahead”.
The city had also placed countless “No Parking” signs along the five mile stretch of rural road which leads to MJ’s former home.
Thankfully, while there were a lot of people paying their respects at Neverland Ranch yesterday, we were still able to stalk it quite easily. As you can see in above photograph, there were a ton of media vans and reporters on site staked out to cover the goings-on at the Ranch. Police were also on duty, patroling the area.
The media crews were camped out in front of the property to stake out their section of land , much like was the case over at Forest Lawn Memorial Park where Michael is set to be buried.
Also much like at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, CNN had apparently decided that they didn’t need to actually physically be on site to stake out their claim on a section of land, but that a set of cones would do. LOL I was so tempted to move their cones!
In anticipation of the many visitors to the Ranch, numerous porta-potties had been set up by the city, which I was very grateful for.
A few entrepreneurial individuals were actually selling Michael Jackson memorabilia, like t-shirts and buttons, out in front of his former home. What’s even more amazing to me is that people were actually buying the stuff! Nice, huh?
The entrance to Neverland Ranch looked much different yesterday than when I visited it in 2007. In an ironic juxtaposition, while the last time I visited the Ranch when Michael was still alive, the property was quiet and almost barren, yesterday it was full of life and absolutely crawling with people. I’m guessing there were about fifty fans outside of the Neverland gates who had come to pay their respects to the singer. While there, my fiance spoke to two gentlemen from Spain who had flown all the way to California just to visit the Ranch and pay their respects to Michael! Not everyone was there for the pop star, though. At one point, a man in an SUV drove up to where my fiance was standing and asked him what all the commotion was about. My fiance was like “Um, this is Michael Jackson’s house.” The guy, who had obviously been born under a rock, had absolutely NO idea that he was driving past one of the most famous celebrity homes on earth. LOL LOL LOL
Practically every square inch of the Ranch’s front entrance was covered over with personalized signs, balloons, stuffed animals, and flowers that people had left for Michael. Signs had even been hung from the trees! It was absolutely incredible to see!
As I mentioned the last time I stalked the place, unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot of Neverland to see from the road. But my fiance managed to snap a few pics through the entrance gate. There seemed to be quite a few people on duty at the Ranch, including gardeners, security guards, and what looked to be ranchers of some sort.
Because the perimeter of Neverland isn’t really fenced in, floodlights had been set up to ward off nighttime trespassers.
Los Olivos, the sleepy town where Neverland Ranch is located, is no stranger to the spotlight. The tiny town, which is made up of only one main street that stretches four short blocks, stood in for Mayberry in the 1986 made-for-TV movie Return to Mayberry. And a small local restaurant named Los Olivos Cafe was the spot where Miles, Jack, Maya, and Stephanie shared a romantic meal in the 2004 movie Sideways.
The town is something of a celebrity hotspot, as well. A few years ago, my fiance ate lunch next to Jennie Garth and her husband Peter Facinelli at Los Olivos’ Panino restaurant. But while I’ve been to Los Olivos quite a few times, sadly I’ve never encountered a celeb there.
The above sign, which I spotted in a gift shop window yesterday morning, pretty much perfectly sums up the tiny, sleepy town.
For those fans who would like a more in-depth view of Neverland, you can read an AMAZING article and see some INCREDIBLE pictures taken by a photographer named Jonathan Haeber who snuck into the Ranch back in December of 2007 here. TMZ also posted some great pics of the interior of Michael’s actual home which was located on the Neverland Ranch property. Matt Lauer also gave viewers an indepth tour of Michael’s home just a few days after his untimely death, which you can watch here. And finally, you can see a video Larry King posted of the Neverland property here. My dad and I had the pleasure of stalking the Michael Jackson Exhibit by Julien’s Auctions earlier this year. My photos of the exhibit, which included all of the pop singer’s Neverland Ranch furniture and much of his music memorabilia, can be viewed here.
It was very nice to be able to pay my respects at the Ranch yesterday, especially since I was not one of the chosen few who received tickets to Michael’s memorial at Staples Center. I had so been hoping to win those. So, instead I will be watching the event live at home, along with the rest of the world.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: Neverland Ranch is located off of the 154 Highway at 5225 Figueroa Mountain Road in Los Olivos, about 30 miles north of Santa Barbara and about five miles Northeast of central Los Olivos .