LOS OLIVOS, Calif. (AP) — From outside the gates of Neverland Ranch, it appears as if Michael Jackson's former home and fantasyland has been frozen in time.
The backyard circus is long gone, but heartfelt notes placed by saddened fans at the property's entrance remain intact five years after Jackson's death. And visitors are still making the pilgrimage.
"I figured it would just be a closed gate, but I still wanted to see it for myself," said James Chen of Seattle, a fan who stopped outside Neverland during a recent road trip with his father.
While many Jackson ventures are thriving after his death, including a new album and Cirque du Soleil shows, there's not been similar movement at Neverland, despite rumors the property could be transformed into a Graceland-like homage or sold to the highest bidder.
Caroline Luz, spokeswomen for Colony Capital LLC, the real estate firm that bailed Jackson out after he defaulted on the $24.5 million he owed on Neverland, said the Santa Ynez Valley property about 150 miles north of Los Angeles is being maintained, but she declined further comment.
The estate was built in 1981 by real estate developer William Bone, who called it Sycamore Valley Ranch. Jackson paid $19.5 million for the hilly, oak- and sycamore-studded property in 1988 and rechristened it Neverland after Peter Pan's island dwelling. He soon added such over-the-top amenities as a zoo and small amusement park.
For nearly 20 years, Neverland was both Jackson's home and a pop culture landmark.
It's where Elizabeth Taylor lavishly married Larry Fortensky in 1991; where Oprah Winfrey famously interviewed Jackson live in front of 90 million viewers in 1993; and where then-wife Lisa Marie Presley and Jackson welcomed children from around the globe ahead of the United Nations' 50th anniversary in 1995.
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