LOS OLIVOS, Calif. (AP) -- The gates to Michael Jackson's fabled Neverland Ranch swung open Thursday to reveal a shell of the fantasyland the boy-man had created in his heyday.
Gone was the zoo with its elephants, tigers and giraffe. The exotic snakes had long since slithered away, and the amusement park rides had been dismantled.
The five-bedroom house, with its gigantic kitchen and media room where Jackson liked to screen his beloved Disney films, were nearly empty. His big-screen TV was gone, only a mounting bracket remained.
There were some traces of the playland that the place had been in its glory days, when Jackson opened it to neighborhood children by the thousands and presided over the ensuing parties as the lord of the manor.
In its empty game room, for example, the door knobs shaped like miniature basketballs, baseballs and soccer balls remained. In a closet in the pool house, sandwiched between the pool and the tennis court, was a bucket of tennis balls.
And on a hill overlooking the house stood the fabled train station — a near replica of the one at Disneyland with its huge floral clock. It was still a stunning site from Jackson's front yard, although the railroad tracks behind were overgrown with weeds.
In the station lobby was a snack bar, and above that, accessible by only the smallest of spiral staircases, was a crow's nest of sorts with a fireplace. There, presumably, Jackson must have stood and watched his trains fill up with children taking trips around his 2,500-acre estate.
The ranch was also the site where authorities alleged Jackson had molested a boy. He was acquitted in 2005 and eventually left Neverland.
Visitors wandered through the first-floor, back bedroom where authorities said the incident occurred.
Jackson once acknowledged in a television interview that he sometimes let children sleep with him in his bed in what he called innocent sleepovers.
Colony Capital LLC, the Los Angeles firm that established a joint venture with Jackson to rescue Neverland from foreclosure last year, opened the home to scores of journalists Thursday after a nonstop barrage of requests for access after Jackson died.
Colony has declined to say what it plans to do with the house, and none of the handful of officials present would speak on the record. No members of the Jackson family were seen on the premises.
Visitors were allowed to roam freely for the most part, as more than a dozen gardeners and maintenance workers went about their duties.
The two-story house has a number of labrythine-like hallways and stairways. A large copper bathtub sits in the middle of a hallway.
Across from the front door of the main home was the guest house where Jackson's friend Elizabeth Taylor stayed when she married Larry Fortensky in 1991, at a Neverland wedding briefly interrupted by a skydiving gate-crasher.
Off-limits Thursday was the estate's now-empty amusement park, where Jackson and others once rode bumper cars, a merry-go-round and a Ferris wheel.
"My kids used to go out there and they had a good old time," Los Olivos resident Frank Palmer said earlier this week. "He was just a big kid himself, was what they told me. Michael loved it when they'd crash the go-carts."
Among other things, Jackson left behind dozens of metal sculptures of children in various states of play, They were scattered across the estate, some showing children in modern dress, others looking more like kids who stepped out of a Charles Dickens novel.
One was a kid climbing on monkey bars, another boy helped a girl reach a tree branch.
A slightly larger sculpture had the name Michael Jackson written beneath it. From a distance, it looked nothing like him.
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