In 2003, Neverland Ranch was searched by 70 police officers after accusations arose that Michael Jackson had molested children on the premises. After the investigation, Jackson abandoned the property, saying it has been "violated." In 2006, the property went into foreclosure.
Currently, the ranch is still in real-estate limbo, but one group of photographers spent time between 2007 and 2008 taking pictures of the abandoned amusement park. The photographers have chosen to remain anonymous and only to be identified through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles names.
"It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing," says photographer, Leonardo. "I was aware that the park had been abandoned for quite a while, and I knew that Jackson was in Dubai at the time and that he wasn’t able to pay his electric bills. It just so happened that the day I was out there, it was pretty windy. It was a good cover because there were guards on-site, and the wind sort of blocked out my noise. I was able to sneak in without being heard. I had no expectation to make it in, but I just wanted to see."
The pictures of the abandoned amusement rides are something special.
"We’re kind of professionals. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but… We do this a lot," said Donatello. "We do a lot of research and recon. But also, it’s surprisingly low-key because there’s a guard truck down by the road, and we just avoided that guard truck, and once you’re past that, you’re in the valley, and you’re on your own, and it’s pretty desolate. We didn't have to break any laws, because [the house] was open. It was all open."
"I was really on-edge and uncomfortable, mostly because I was worried that someone might find us in there and I think it’s just such a breach of privacy," Donatello admitted. "It was so compelling to do it; I couldn’t not go in because the opportunity was there. But at the same time, it just felt wrong. It was this constant friction between fascination and, 'I've got to get the f*** outta here. I shouldn't be in here.'"
"The whole thing was just really an adventure, and going somewhere that nobody’s ever seen, and seeing all of this stuff, it was right after he left the country because of the molestation charges," Raphael added. "So in our mind, it was like looking at everything more from that angle. There’s the kids’ stuff, there’s toys everywhere, there’s the huge arcade—a giant child-magnet."
"He probably had ten rooms, I would say," Leonardo recalled. "The mansion itself was not as huge as you’d think, but there were all of these other smaller buildings that we didn’t really go in."
"What’s weird is that within his house, there was no dust. It was immaculate," says Donatello. "The carpet was vacuumed, and there was no dust on any of those crazy sculpture or statues. That’s kind of why we were on edge—like, people are here. A lot of things were covered in vinyl-type tarps to protect them. But it was obvious that someone was in there cleaning, I would say, at least once a week, by how clean it was."
Would you ever go to Neverland Ranch?