A Look Inside the Neverland Ranch: MJ’s Childhood Dream

In 1987, Michael Jackson bought Sycamore Valley Ranch and transformed it into Neverland, the ultimate childhood fantasy world. Located in the Santa Barbara County area in California, the dreamlike playground seemed to be catered more toward children than to the pop star himself, highlighting the fact that MJ never really had a childhood.

The Neverland Ranch / Michael Jackson’s sculpture / Michael Jackson / Prince Michael Jackson, Blanket Jackson, Paris Jackson.
Source: Getty Images

When he was just a little boy, Jackson became a renowned musical sensation with his brothers. He was a natural-born performer, but that’s pretty much all he did. And when he wasn’t on stage, he had a troublesome relationship with his father, Joe. The Neverland Ranch became the place that Michael Jackson could live out the childhood he never had and always yearned for.

MJ Was Gifted One of the Original Batsuits

Back in 1989, when Tim Burton was filming the Batman movie starring Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton, the director was really hoping to get the King of Pop to work on the soundtrack for the film. Jackson really wanted to write music for the film and be involved in the project.

The original Bat-suit stands next to a framed picture of Michael Jackson.
Source: Pinterest

Unfortunately, he was unable to because of prior commitments. But Jackson tried, and Burton appreciated it. To show his gratitude, Jackson was gifted with the original batsuit that Keaton wore in the movie. The suit was displayed as décor for the Neverland Ranch.

He Also Has Edward’s Scissorhands

After Batman became a huge hit, director Tim Burton struck gold once again when he released Edward Scissorhands a year later. Caroline Thomson, the screenwriter for the movie, said on record that Edward Scissorhands is a character that Michael Jackson would have enjoyed playing, according to Vice.

Edward Scissorhands gloves on display.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In fact, at some point, MJ actually expressed interest in playing the character but, apparently, the filmmakers never followed up on it. Instead, they gave him another present: the vintage gloves that Johnny Depp actually wore to portray the character. They were also kept at the ranch.

He Always Wanted a Farm

One of the magical aspects of the Neverland Ranch was that it featured animals in every color, size, or shape you can think of. Some of the creatures they had in the ranch were cows, alpacas, elephants, parrots, and chimpanzees. There are plenty more, but those are the ones that stood out.

Michael Jackson’s tigers.
Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage/Getty Images

Having all these animals in one place may seem random, even a little strange, but as it turned out, that was what MJ wanted. He had dreams of building his own zoo, but he ended up settling for a private zoo at his Neverland Ranch.

Jackson Bought the Ranch When He Was 29

Most of us spend our 20’s struggling to maintain a household and trying to keep up with rent payments. But when Michael Jackson was in his 20s, he was not like you or me. That’s how he was able to purchase an entire ranch when he was only 29.

Aerial view of Michael Jackson’s Ranch.
Photo by Jason Kirk/Getty Images

It sounds like fun, but it came at a price. He spent his entire childhood working. Nevertheless, buying a ranch at that age is a remarkable feat but what makes it more impressive is when you realize how much money he coughed up to purchase the property. The exact number is unclear, but it’s been estimated that it cost the singer between $17 million and $30 million.

Kim K’s Birthday Bash

Although it feels like Kim Kardashian has always been a household name, she didn’t actually become famous until 2007, when her family’s reality show Keeping Up With the Kardashians premiered and launched her into stardom. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t hang around wealthy, prominent people. But Paris Hilton wasn’t her only fancy friend.

Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian attend a private party.
Photo by Stephane Cardinale/Corbis/Getty Images

Teenaged Kim dated Michael Jackson’s nephew. While they were together, TJ pulled some strings so the socialite could have her 14th birthday party at the Neverland Ranch. Although the King of Pop himself didn’t attend the celebration, it was definitely a memorable birthday for Kim.

He Wasn’t Very Hygienic at the Ranch

While staying at Neverland, Michael Jackson was the least hygienic in all the ranch. At least that’s what the maids who cleaned the ranch said. One of them spoke to The New York Post anonymously and discussed some of the singer’s tendencies…

Michael Jackson plays the piano at home.
Photo by Steve Starr/CORBIS/Getty Images

The anonymous maid revealed that MJ would often play with the animals and track mud into the house. That doesn’t sound too bad, but don’t worry; it gets worse. He refused to have his sheets cleaned. The maids would wait until he wasn’t around to sneak in to change the bedspread. MJ did not know what he was missing! There is no better feeling than freshly washed sheets!

Elizabeth Taylor Had One of her Eight Weddings There

One of Michael Jackson’s closest and oldest friends was Oscar-winning Hollywood starlet Elizabeth Taylor. The two adored each other so much that they loved buying each other gifts. He would shower her with diamonds, and she bought him an elephant shipped from Asia! The elephant lived on the ranch.

Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor.
Photo by KMazur/WireImage/Getty Images

But the best gift he gave Elizabeth was a place to host her wedding. When she married her seventh husband, Larry Fortensky, in 1991, MJ was happy to let her use the ranch for her special day. He even paid an extra $1.3 million for the wedding décor. Now that’s a good friend right there.

His Children Grew Up on the Ranch

Michael Jackson opened up the ranch to plenty of children, but the most important kids in his life lived there. MJ was notorious for hiding his children’s faces and keeping them as far away from the spotlight as possible. Raising them on the ranch was the best way to protect them.

Michael Jackson watches his son playing with a microphone.
Source: Pinterest

While Paris, Blanket, and Prince were isolated on the ranch, it doesn’t seem like a bad place to grow up. Considering they had a literal carnival in their backyard, Michael Jackson made sure they had a fun and happy childhood. Since the kids were sheltered on the ranch, they didn’t attend public school; Jackson hired tutors to come to Neverland to educate them.

Named After Dear Old Mom

Among the various over-the-top items featured at the Neverland Ranch, the singer installed two train railroads, fully equipped with stunning train locomotives. He named one of these locomotives Katherine, after his mother.

The train at the Neverland Ranch.
Photo by Steve Starr/Corbis/Getty Images

Katherine Esther Jackson always had a strong bond with Michael. She was the one who forced to husband Joe to include little MJ in the Jackson 5. She noticed her son’s talent when he was a baby, no matter how skeptical Joe was. Katherine is now 88 years old and is the guardian of Michael’s three children. Wow! Talk about a dedicated mother! No wonder he named a locomotive after her!

Paul McCartney Rented It First

At the height of their careers, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney were frequent collaborators. Their most memorable work together was when they recorded “This Girl Is Mine” for Jackson’s album Thriller and “Say, Say, Say” for McCartney’s Pipes of Peace.

Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson in the studio.
Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images

While shooting the music video for “Say, Say, Say,” McCartney rented out and stayed on the property, which was called Sycamore Valley Ranch at the time. When MJ went to visit his friend at the residence, he fell in love with it. He couldn’t stop thinking about the ranch and was so enamored by the atmosphere, so he decided to just buy it.

The Carousel Played His Music

Another fantastical, magical feature of Neverland is that it has its own carousel. Imagine growing up with a fully functioning merry-go-round in your backyard! I thought my trampoline was fun, but MJ’s kids basically lived in a theme park. But in true Michael Jackson fashion, owning some ordinary old carousel wasn’t good enough. He wanted to personalize his!

Michael Jackson in his carousel.
Source: Imgur

Jackson ordered a special carousel that played music whenever it ran. More specifically, his song “Childhood” which only adds fuel to the theory that Jackson was using the ranch to live out the childhood he never had.

Nicole Richie Visited Neverland Often

One of Michael Jackson’s most popular songs of all time is arguably the one he wrote and sang with Lionel Richie: “We Are the World.” Richie opened up about writing the song on the Neverland Ranch during an interview and said he felt a little unsettled when Jackson’s animals would terrorize each other.

Michael Jackson poses, hugging Nicky Hilton and Nicole Richie.
Source: Pinterest

But the two were more than just collaborators; they were close friends. In fact, their bond was so strong that Richie left compelled to make Michael Jackson his daughter Nicole’s godfather. When she was a kid, Nicole would often visit the ranch with her dad.

Marlon Brando’s Son Got Married at Neverland

While running in Hollywood circles, it’s only natural that you would make friends with celebrities. One of Jackson’s closest famous friends was legendary actor and multiple Oscar-winner Marlon Brando. The actor visited MJ’s ranch several times, and he once referred to Neverland as his second home.

Marlon Brando and Michael Jackson pose together for a portrait.
Source: Pinterest

Brando’s son Miko probably felt the same way since he had a sentimental connection to the ranch. Although Miko worked as a security guard at the Neverland Ranch – that wasn’t the special memory. Miko actually got married on the ranch, with his best man being The King of Pop himself.

Macaulay Culkin Helped Design the Neverland Theme Park

After Home Alone launched Macaulay Culkin into stardom, Michael Jackson befriended the child star, and the two developed a strong bond. They were so close that before he died, Jackson made Culkin the godfather to all three of his children. If that doesn’t prove how close their relationship was, this might.

Macaulay Culkin and Michael Jackson attend av event.
Photo by Kevin Kane/WireImage/Getty Images

Jackson allowed the youngster to help him design the amusement park that was built intoNeverland. Culkin visited Neverland quite often and enjoyed his time there. Jackson felt like they were able to bond over their loss of childhood since both of them were pushed into showbiz at a young age. He wanted some childhood input and trusted Culkin’s imaginary mind.

So Many Mannequins

After Michael Jackson passed away, one of the strangest things found on the Neverland ranch was an entire room filled with life-sized mannequins. The mannequins seem to be modeled after his children. Well, if we were judging by the clothes the mannequins were wearing.

A life-sized mannequin on top of boxes.
Source: Pinterest

The mannequins didn’t seem alarming in any way; they just looked bizarre since most of them didn’t have any hair. Maybe he spent too much on that personal carousel, and he had to tap into the mannequin budget, and there just wasn’t enough for wigs.

Jackson the Pied Piper

Those of you who enjoy classic folklore may be familiar with the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, a tale as old as time. This legend dates back to the Middle Ages and tells the story of a ratcatcher who was hired by the mayor to take care of the rat infestation problem in the town using his magic flute. The mayor refused to pay the ratcatcher for his work.

Michael Jackson as the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Photo by Jason Mitchell/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Feeling betrayed by the town, the ratcatcher retaliated by using his magic flute to rally the town’s youngest inhabitants (130 children), who followed him into a cave and were never seen again. Judging from this painting, we can only assume that MJ understood and related to the ratcatcher’s despair.

The Bizarre Shrine

In 2014, four photographers broke into the Neverland Ranch and uncovered some interesting and strange findings. One of those discoveries happened to be a shrine. The peculiar shrine featured a demonic statue head guarding a sketch of what looks like a man in a suit named “Tommy,” who was drawn as the Devil.

The Devil shrine on top of a desk in the dark.
Source: Pinterest

It’s not 100% clear whether or not MJ made this himself, or maybe someone else created it and left it on the ranch (before or after MJ’s death). However, it is widely assumed that the eerie drawing was, in fact, drawn by Michael, but no one really understands the significance. It seems a little dark for someone who aimed to create a childlike and happy atmosphere.

A Collection of Realistic Dolls

As someone trying to relive his unfulfilled childhood, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that Michael Jackson was an avid toy collector. The Neverland Ranch was filled with life-sized action figures, a human-sized Power Ranger, and those mannequins we mentioned earlier.

A realistic doll in a display case.
Source: Flickr

The ranch also contained dolls, most of which were incredibly intimidating. They just give off this uncomfortable vibe; just look how creepy they are. Honestly, I don’t know why Michael Jackson (or anyone else) would collect these terrifying dolls.

Odd Statues of Himself

Another creepy and downright wacky discovery from the Neverland Ranch are these three lined-up statues of MJ’s distorted face. We aren’t exactly sure what the significance of these statues is, but I’m guessing they were made for and used on a set of his short/film music video for “Ghosts.”

A robotic Michael Jackson head sculpture.
Photo by Shaan Kokin/Julien’s Auctions

But even if they were from his music video, it doesn’t explain why he would keep them years after the video came out. As we can tell, Jackson has a strong sense of nostalgia, so perhaps his own memorabilia are sentimental to him. Or maybe he just thought it was beautiful décor for the ranch.

The Blue Door

As previously mentioned, five years after Michael Jackson died, four photographers broke into the ranch to see what they would find. They decided to document their findings with a camera which captured some strange discoveries.

A decayed blue door with a steel knocker of a couple kissing.
Source: Tumblr

One of the weirdest was a blue door that had been tattered, chipped away, and decayed after many years of use. But the oddest part wasn’t noticed until later. After a closer inspection, a steel knocker depicting a kissing couple was seen.

Fortune Teller Machine

As we already mentioned, it is strongly believed that Michael Jackson built the Neverland Ranch in order to capture the childhood he never had but always longed for. That idea becomes even more evident through this fortune teller machine.

A wooden fortune teller machine depicting an old lady.
Source: Tumblr

The same year that Michael Jackson opened up shop at the Neverland Ranch was the same year that Big, starring Tom Hanks, hit theaters. The movie is about a boy who transforms from a little kid to a fully-grown man after playing with a fortune teller machine. I think this storyline crossed MJ’s mind when he bought this thing.

A Hall for Any Occasion

The Ranch was also the pop star’s epic getaway, but he enjoyed having celebrity guests come over to visit. Macaulay Culkin famously hung out there quite often and had a strong bond with Michael Jackson. The singer felt protective of the child star and felt like he could relate to him.

Statues and gardens in the exterior views of the entrance to the ranch.
Photo by Stephen Kim/WireImage/Getty Images

Old Hollywood starlet Elizabeth Taylor even had one of her multiple weddings at the ranch, and she wasn’t the only one to hold a special occasion there. Before she was famous, a little reality star you may have heard of, had a wonderful celebration at the magical ranch.

Kim Kardashian’s Birthday Party!

Kim Kardashian had her 14th birthday party at Neverland and described it as “the most magical place in the world.” If that phrase sounds familiar, it’s because it’s used to describe Disney World! Yeah, Neverland is being compared to the most popular and beloved dreamlike theme parks in the world.

Exterior views of the gardens at the Ranch.
Photo by Stephen Kim/WireImage/Getty Images

Unfortunately, the legacy of the Neverland Ranch has been a topic of discussion since the Leaving Neverland documentary came out on Netflix. But today, we’re not going to get into the controversy. Instead, we are going to take a look inside the iconic Neverland Ranch.

Creepy Statues

The dolls and mannequins that we already discussed aren’t the only life-like, childlike imagery hiding at the Neverland Ranch. Both the interior and exteriors of the Neverland Ranch were flowing with life-sized statues of children all over the place.

Statues of children playing.
Photo by Jason Mitchell/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic/Getty Images

This specific one is located near the front lawn of the Neverland Ranch. There are two kids: a barefoot boy wearing blue overalls and a girl in a blue dress. The statue depicts them playing on what seems to be a go-kart or maybe a lawnmower?

His Taste in Art

This is one of the most befuddling pieces, and we are still trying to decipher the meaning it holds. In a scene that is weirdly reminiscent of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, you’ll notice a scratched-up pair of hands trying to emerge for air after being buried deep under a concrete floor.

A sculpture of a pair of hands in a display case.
Source: Tumblr

We can’t quite figure out why exactly Jackson chose this piece of artwork. He might have thought the imagery looked cool and bought it because he liked it. However, there is something eerie about this piece of art that gives off an unsettling vibe.

Five Years on the Market

According to The Wall Street Journal, Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, California, has finally been sold after being on the market for nearly five years. So, who coughed up the money to buy this lavish property? Billionaire businessman Ron Burkle.

An aerial view from the Neverland Ranch.
Photo by Jason Mitchell/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Interestingly enough, Burkle is not only the co-founder of a successful investment firm called Yucaipa Companies, but he is also the co-owner of an American football team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. In addition to his impressive business endeavors, he was one of Jackson’s former associates.

Finally Sold!

As The Wall Street Journal reported, Buckle saw the 1,093-hectare property, which includes the main residence, pool house, movie theater, and a dance studio, from the air and decided to put an offer in, which ended up being accepted. The businessman paid a hefty $28,96 million for the Neverland Ranch.

The gates to the Neverland Ranch.
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

That may sound like a lot, but that’s over $100 million less than his original asking price of $131.5 million. The bargain was due to the dark stories surrounding the estate. In 2016, it was reported that he kept a triple-locked closet in a guesthouse filled with photos of minors and children’s toys.

The Bargain Was Due to Dark Associations

Everyone has different opinions about the pop star. Some think he is a creepy child abuser, while other people truly believe that his childhood was taken from him, and he wanted to live it out in Neverland while at the same time protecting other children in a similar situation like Macaulay Culkin.

Michael Jackson performs onstage with children.
Photo by Kieran Doherty/Redferns/Getty Images

However, the child abuser theory became the popular opinion after Netflix released the documentary Leaving Neverland, which surrounds the alleged child abuse allegations against Michael Jackson. He’s not here to defend himself, so I’ll keep my opinions to myself.

29-Year-Old Homeowner

Michael Jackson bought Sycamore Valley Ranch (which was later renamed Neverland) back in 1987 from William Bone. The singer resided there during the peak of his fame. It became his epic hideaway, but he loved inviting guests to enjoy the property as much as he did.

A portrait of Michael Jackson.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

The new name stemmed from its majestic-looking trees and mystical green hills. You probably know that the name Neverland was derived from the fictional boy who never grows up, Peter Pan. But does it really come as a surprise? Jackson even once said, “I totally identify with Peter Pan, the lost boy from Neverland.”

An Amusement Park and a Zoo!

On another occasion, Jackson explained, “I never had the chance to do the fun things kids do.” Neverland gave him that missed childhood, decked out with an amusement park featuring a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round that, as we mentioned, played MJ’s song “Childhood.”

Michael Jackson stands in his carousel.
Source: Tumblr

But that wasn’t all. The ranch also includes a zoo with monkeys and an elephant, two railroads with a steam locomotive (one named after his mom, Katherine), and a station house modeled after the one at Disney World. You know what they say, go big or go home.

Jackson Never Moved Back…

In 2005, after Michael Jackson was famously acquitted for abusing a 13-year-old boy at Neverland, the King of Pop never moved back to the ranch. He passed away four years later, in June 2009, in his Los Angeles home after cardiac arrest induced by a drug overdose.

Michael Jackson and his bodyguard are trying to avoid cameras in court.
Photo by Hector Mata-Pool/Getty Images

There are a lot of theories surrounding Jackson’s death, but it should be noted that it was not a suicide. The overdose was actually due to a cocktail of pills that he had a prescription for. Unfortunately, the mixture was deathly, and his doctor, Conrad Murray, was famously charged with involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 4 years behind bars (he only served two).

His Three Kids Grew Up There

We know that Jackson’s three children lived at the Neverland Ranch and that they even got their education there when MJ hired tutors for them. Paris Jackson spoke to Rolling Stone about her seven years living on the ranch. “We couldn’t just go on the rides whenever we wanted to,” she explained.

Prince Michael Jackson, Blanket Jackson, and Paris Jackson appear on stage.
Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

“We actually had a pretty normal life. Like, we had school every single day, and we had to be good. And if we were good, every other weekend or so, we could choose whether we were gonna go to the movie theatre or see the animals or whatever. But if you were on bad behavior, then you wouldn’t get to go do all those things.”