March 17, 2008 12:00 PM

Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch near Los Olivos, Calif., was like no other home on earth. Its 2,500-plus lush acres had a private zoo, an amusement park and a train, all built in for millions of dollars. “It was his private Disneyland,” a Jackson friend said of the house, which had an estimated $4-million-a-year upkeep.

But Jackson’s private playland has hit the skids: If the singer doesn’t repay a loan of over $24 million by March 19, Fortress Investments will foreclose on the ranch, worth an estimated $35 million. The house has, along with a fantasyland quality, an infamous history: On Nov. 18, 2003, law enforcement officials raided the property, where Jackson lived with his three children, as part of an investigation into child molestation charges against the singer. “Afterward, Michael felt [Neverland] was defiled,” says Stacy Brown, Jackson’s former friend and biographer. The singer hasn’t been back in over a year (he lives in Las Vegas’s Palms hotel). The only resident now is a Jackson cousin. “Neverland is ghostly,” says an insider. Jackson’s friends and family are trying to secure a new loan to save the ranch. “Michael’s got so many bad memories of it,” says the insider. “But he doesn’t want to be publicly embarrassed. And it’s the only real home his kids have ever known.”

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