Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch was allegedly full of hidden bedrooms, warning systems and other features that facilitated his sexually abusive behavior, according to the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland.
In the first half of the two-part film released on March 3 and 4, two of the late singer’s alleged victims, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, described how Jackson used his infamous California compound to transfix the two young boys when he invited each of them there, keep them separate from their parents, and even warn him of anyone approaching a room in which, they say, he was sexually assaulting them.
Neverland Ranch, the 2,700 acre property where the pop star lived for 15 years is currently on the market, and the realtor’s description of the property, which has been renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch, includes features like a fire department building, a swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts, game rooms, a zoo, and multiple guesthouses. Jackson’s famous private amusement park, which featured a ferris wheel, carousel, roller coaster and an arcade, has been removed.
In Leaving Neverland, Safechuck, now 40, details how many of the kid-friendly features were allegedly used for sinister purposes.
“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 says, recalling his experience at age 10, in part one of the documentary.
He identifies numerous secret rooms and secluded places Jackson would allegedly take him to at the ranch: “He had an Indian fort with teepees, so we would lay down sleeping bags, have snacks and then have sexual relations there . . . There’s a third floor attic. It was kind of secluded. You could only get to it from these steep stairs. You could tell if somebody was coming. So we would go in there and have sex.”
Safechuck also claims Jackson molested him in a guest house far from the main residence that the singer used to hold memorabilia, in the pool and jacuzzi, in a hidden bedroom above the arcade, and in a suite in Jackson’s private movie theater.
In the main house, where Safechuck says he would sleep in Jackson’s bed with him, the singer allegedly had a basic alarm system in place: a bell, that would ring if anyone entered the long hallway that led to the master suite. “There were bells, so you would have a moment of hearing them chirp, and at least it alarmed him to when people were coming,” Safechuck says.
Jackson also allegedly used the layout of that space to serve his purposes. “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 that people had to get through,” Safechuck claims.
Above the master bedroom is a second hidden sleeping space, according to Robson’s older sister Chantal, who is also interviewed in the film.
“It was basically like a staircase that took you up to this other room in his room,” she recounts. “So he said we could stay in his room in that guest unit, if we wanted to, and of course we were like, ‘Please, can we?'” (Chantal says she was not abused and was unaware of what was happening to her brother while at the ranch.)
The property enchanted each new visitor with its flower gardens, fountains, and manicured grounds according to Robson, 36, and his family members, who visited.
“It’s like a fairy land. It’s all fairy lights and there’s beautiful lakes that are all lit up, and the house is all lit up and it’s amazing,” his mother, Joy, recalls in the film.
Adds Chantal, “As soon as you pulled in, there’s music going, there’s flowers everywhere. It felt like you were driving into this little heaven.”
Wade also recalls being taken with the ranch. “We were all tripping out on this place. It was just out of a storybook, out of a fairy tale,” he says.
The sheer size of the property also facilitated the star keeping his alleged victims hidden away from their parents, according to Joy.
“[Michael] and Wade would avoid me,” she says. “I could tell they were avoiding me. It’s a big place — 2,700 acres. They’d take off for the day and I’d spend all day looking for them. Couldn’t find them.”
At night, Joy would stay in the guest quarters, which Wade notes are in a separate building across from the main house, while, he claims, he and his sister stayed in Jackson’s bedroom.
All around the property, kid-friendly amenities were available to them.
The movie theater was “like a child’s dream come true,” says Joy, with “a big candy store that you just help yourself to.” Wade’s grandmother recalls that Jackson’s bedroom had an electric toy train running around the perimeter. And in one of the most harrowing descriptions of his abuse at age 7, Wade recalls that there was a cardboard cut-out of Peter Pan in Jackson’s bedroom, that he would stare at from the bed. “It’s like, I was either looking back at him masturbating or looking forward at Peter Pan,” he says.
Safechuck explains that play and abuse blended together for him because of the presence of kid’s toys and games in these spaces. “There’s toys everywhere, things to do. So they just kind of mix together,” he says.
Jackson purchased the home in 1987 for $19.5 million. It’s now co-owned by the singer’s estate and fund management company Colony Capital. It was listed for sale six years after his death for $100 million in 2015. The price has since been lowered by 70 percent (or about $70 million) to $31 million. The most recent reduction comes amid a legal battle with the HBO filmmakers.
“This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson,” the statement read. “Wade Robson and James Safechuck have both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them. Safechuck and Robson, the latter a self-proclaimed ‘master of deception’, filed lawsuits against Michael’s Estate, asking for millions of dollars. Both lawsuits were dismissed.
In an interview with Gayle King, Jackson’s nephew Taj, 45, said his memories of spending time with the singer were very different.
“I grew up in it, so for me it wasn’t odd,” Taj said in response to a question about whether he thought it was odd that Jackson shared a bed with young children. “You know, I think, to the outside world, yes, I think it can be odd. I mean, I’m not oblivious to what it sounds like. But when you’re actually there in that atmosphere and you’re around it, and you’re watching movies, whether, with his kids, whether it’s Little Rascals or Three Stooges, and you’re watching these things, it’s like, it’s very innocent.”
He continued, “I think, the fault on my uncle was he just, he didn’t have that bone in his body to look at it the other way,” he continued. “And I think that was the thing, is that his naiveté was his downfall in a way.”
In late February, Jackson’s estate filed a lawsuit against HBO claiming the documentary violates a non-disparagement clause in which the network agreed to not speak ill of the singer and also cited Jackson’s 2005 acquittal of child molestation charges against him, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
The network addressed the lawsuit in a statement: “Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of Leaving Neverland, the two-part documentary, on March 3 and 4. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”
Jackson was 50 years old when he was found dead on June 25, 2009, in his L.A. mansion and is survived by his three children: Prince Michael, 22, Paris, 20, and 17-year-old “Blanket,” who now goes by Bigi.
Leaving Neverland is now available on HBO.