When most people think about Michael Jackson’s sleepovers with children, they have in their mind a bunch of kids having a slumber party with Jackson in his bedroom, or Jackson sleeping on the floor or a cot while children took the bed. While this may have been the case on some occassions, when it came to Jackson’s friends, the boys Jackson formed special attachments with, Jackson above all else preferred to sleep one-on-one with them – often going to extraordinary lengths to make it happen.
(You can also read the Omer Bhatti story, about the 12 year old boy who Michael Jackson picked up in Tunisia and took back to Neverland to live with him for six years – link opens in new window)
However, before we detail the when, where and how, we’ll first put the defending parents’ and boys’ protestations that these sleepovers were ‘innocent’ into perspective. Let us make something clear, Jackson was not a monster in the traditional sense of the word – he never grabbed children off the street in order to molest them, he never was a vicious child rapist and he certainly never felt it was his goal, in his mind, to ‘harm’ children in any way. That is more the province of mysoped child molesters. He deliberately and consciously had a long term plan to get close to boys and over a period of time make it seem normal for those prepubescent boys to share a bed with a 30-40 year old man. Jackson convinced the parents, and the boys, that it was perfectly natural for him to have a boy in his bed for extended periods of time. He convinced parents to leave their sons in his care and not to bat an eyelid when they heard Jackson shared a bed with them. As you will see, some parents even became vigorous defenders of the practice.
Most of the parents who defended these sleepovers that their sons had with Jackson were groomed over a period of time, with Jackson having long phone conversations with them in order to build trust even before Jackson had met them. As the epitome of a ‘nice guy’ pedophile, Jackson spent hours on the phone with some of the parents, gaining trust with them and slowly moving towards his intended goal – that is, getting their sons into bed with him. Some parents, though, had complete and full trust in Jackson the day they met him, allowing their children to sleep with him straight away. Even if parents had any suspicions about Jackson, their judgement was clouded not just by Jackson’s manipulation, but their judgement was hopelessly compromised by Jackson’s largesse.
The boys’ statements, where they say “nothing happened”, should be viewed with a degree of skepticism – victims of “nice guy” pedophiles in most cases are reticent to admit molestation. Ken Lanning, the FBI’s foremost expert on child sexual abuse, has this to say about such victims:
Child-lover molesters almost never use violence for sex, said Lanning. Instead, they groom and seduce and manipulate and use cooperation to get what they want out of the child. “I can’t tell you how many cases where there are letters from the victim written to the accused, saying, ‘You’re the nicest person I ever met,’ or ‘You’ve been so good to me,'” said Lanning. Many victims don’t tell anyone of the inappropriate behavior because they are considered “compliant child victims.” “A child can’t legally consent to having sex, but some of them aren’t necessarily fighting him off,” said Lanning. “They’re developmentally immature, and later they feel ashamed and embarrassed that they cooperated in their victimization.”
Because victims of acquaintance exploitation usually have been carefully seduced and often do not realize they are victims, they repeatedly and voluntarily return to the offender. Society and the criminal-justice system have a difficult time understanding this. If a boy is molested by his neighbor, teacher, or clergy member, why does he “allow” it to continue? Most likely he may not initially realize he is a victim. Some victims are simply willing to trade sex for attention, affection, and gifts and do not believe they are victims. The sex itself might even be enjoyable. The offender may be treating them better than anyone has ever treated them.
Most of these victims never disclose their victimization. Younger children may believe they did something “wrong” or “bad” and are afraid of getting into trouble. Older children may be more ashamed and embarrassed. Many victims not only do not disclose, but they strongly deny it happened when confronted. In one case several boys took the stand and testified concerning the high moral character of the accused molester. When the accused molester changed his plea to guilty, he admitted that the boys who testified for him were also victims.
The most common reasons that victims do not disclose are stigma of homosexuality, lack of societal understanding, presence of positive feelings for the offender, embarrassment or fear over their victimization, or do not believe they are victims. Since most of the offenders are male, the stigma of homosexuality is a serious problem for male victims. Although being seduced by a male child molester does not necessarily make a boy a homosexual, the victims do not understand this. If a victim does disclose, he believes that he is risking significant ridicule by his peers and lack of acceptance by his family.
So we can see that the boys merely saying it isn’t so is not proof that they weren’t molested. This was underscored by Jason Francia, the boy who received a 2.4 million dollar payout after alleging he was tickled on the genitals several times by Jackson, who was extremely reticent about his abuse to law enforcement and the court. He wasn’t the only one who expressed displeasure over revelations about being molested.
Wade Robson was an Australian boy who first met Jackson briefly in 1987, when he was five years old. Wade entered a dance contest and won, with the prize being a meeting with Jackson. The actual meeting was a brief meet and greet after a concert during the Australian leg of the Bad tour, however Jackson must have been taken with the little boy because he told his mother that if they were ever in the US they should look him up. In 1989, the Robsons were touring the US when Wade’s mother, Joy, decided she would try and track down Jackson and arrange a meeting. She was successful, and they arranged to meet Jackson at Record One recording studios. The Robson party consisted of the Wade, his sister Chantal, their parents and one set of grandparents. Jackson obviously liked what he saw in young Wade as he invited the whole family to his ranch that weekend.
That first night, despite only having gotten to know Jackson for one day, Joy Robson agreed to allow her children, seven year old Wade and his ten year old sister Chantal, to stay in his bedroom while she, her husband and her parents stayed in the guest units. It should be noted here that the Neverland guest units were a substantial distance away from the main house. After playing for a while, Chantal departed to the upstairs section of Jackson’s suite to sleep, leaving her brother in bed next to Jackson. Chantal said she felt “uncomfortable” staying in the same bed as Jackson and her brother. The following night, she decided to sleep in Jackson’s bed, however this was one of the last times she did so. Despite many more visits to Neverland over a span of years, she only slept in Jackson’s bed twice more as part of the aforementioned “slumber parties”.
After that weekend, the Robsons continued their tour during the week, returning to Neverland the following weekend. After that weekend, mother and son went with Jackson to Las Vegas to catch a Siegfried and Roy show while the rest of the Robson family travelled to San Francisco. In Vegas, Jackson, his new young friend and his new young friend’s mother took a suite in a hotel, with Joy Robson in one bedroom and Jackson one-on-one with Wade in another. While Joy did spend some time in Jackson’s bedroom during the day and part of the evening, Jackson had Wade to himself at night.
Jackson enjoyed Wade’s company so much that he flew the young boy over to America four times over the next two years. Each time Wade would stay with Jackson for a couple of weeks, either at Neverland Ranch or Jackson’s apartment at Westwood, or both. When Jackson and Wade were staying at the apartment in Westwood, Joy Robson would usually stay in the Holiday Inn opposite. According to the Robson’s, Jackson spent a lot of time mentoring Wade in music production, but when Jackson was working without Wade present Wade stayed with his mother, when Jackson would return home late at night he would immediately phone Joy and instruct here to deliver Wade to his bedroom. Joy would take the boy across the road to Jackson’s apartment and leave him there – she would return empty handed to the hotel. She was well aware that she was taking her son to Jackson so that they could share a bed.
Whenever they were back in Australia, Jackson spent hours on the phone with Wade, with Jackson calling at least once a week and sometimes more often!
In 1991 the Robson’s moved to the US to live permanently (sans Wade’s father), with Jackson’s help to gain permanent residency, and Wade continued to spend one-on-one bed time with Jackson until 1996, when he slept with Jackson for the last time at the Sheraton in Los Angeles. Wade’s mother did not accompany him on that occassion. In fact, on many of Wade’s visits to Neverland during his time living in the US, his mother was not present. On one occassion, Jackson stayed in the Robson’s apartment, sharing a pull out couch with Wade.
When asked if there were other boys he had heard of sleeping alone with Jackson, he had no knowledge of any. We know from Joy Robson that on one occassion at Neverland, Wade was disappointed because Jackson had chosen a one-on-one sleepover with Jordan Chandler instead of Wade. Wade could only remember one or two occassions when others were present in Jackson’s bed apart from him. By studying his testimony, we can ascertain that Wade spent over 300 nights alone with Jackson over seven years. Wade continues to deny anything untoward happened during these nights together with Jackson (but see our notes about disclosure at the beginning of the essay).
Update 2oth May 2013: Wade has now admitted that he was molested by Jackson during these sleepovers Wade Robson and Michael Jackson
Brett Barnes is another Australian boy who spent a considerable amount of time sharing Jackson’s bed. Brett Barnes wrote a letter to Jackson in 1987 at age 5, (technically, his sister Karlee wrote it, but Brett dictated it). Jackson supposedly pulled his letter out of a sack full of mail and gave him a call. After that initial phone call, Jackson rang frequently, for hours at a time. Finally, in 1991, when Brett was nine years old, Jackson invited his family to the US for a three week all expenses paid vacation. By the end of the first week, both Barnes children had stayed in Jackson’s bedroom (although the sister Karlee only slept there once because, like Wade Robson’s sister Chantal, she felt “uncomfortable”). The Barnes parents enjoyed the break, Jackson showing them the delights of staying at Neverland and also taking them to Disneyland for a week. Jackson and the family took a suite at the Disneyland hotel, although Jackson and Brett shared a bedroom while the rest of the family shared another. Jackson also took the family to Las Vegas, once again with Brett sharing Jackson’s bed.
Subsequent to that visit, Jackson flew Brett to the US at least once a year for several years. Brett continued to share a bed with Jackson, one-on-one, for up to a month at a time in this period between ages 9 and 12. Jackson and Brett travelled around the US, staying in hotels, in the same bed. There were no other children travelling with them. Brett’s mother had no idea which cities they travelled to, apart from Las Vegas and Chicago. The rest of the time she was in the dark.
Over time, Brett and his family spent a considerable amount of time travelling with Jackson while he was touring. Jackson was utterly delighted to have a boy with such such compliant parents and took the family with him to South America, Africa, Europe and Australia. Whilst the parents travelled with the Jackson entourage, Brett continued to share Jackson’s bed on these travels. Marie, Brett’s mother, was quite vague as to how often Brett stayed with Jackson, but Brett’s sister Karlee confirmed that her brother shared Jackson’s bed every single night during this period as well as all the times they stayed at Neverland when Jackson was there. It amounted to a staggering 465+ nights. Brett could only remember a couple of occassions when there was another boy in Jackson’s bed with them. He certainly could never remember any woman, as a romantic interest, around Jackson during the whole time they were travelling together.
Although Brett’s parents never questioned their son’s sleepovers with Jackson, there was one curious incident which happened in Paris. Marie Barnes had had a tiff with Jackson and threatened to leave for Australia, however she wrote in a note to Jackson:
“The only thing that we will not do, we will not leave without Brett, and that could be a bit of a problem”
What this could actually mean is anybody’s guess. What kind of problem would it be if the Barnes’ took Brett away from Jackson? It certainly sounds sinister, whatever it may be. Brett Barnes also denies anything untoward happened when he shared a bed with Jackson, but once again, view the disclaimer at the beginning of this essay.
Jordan Chandler is the boy who received 15.3 million dollars from Jackson after allegations of molestation against the pop star in 1993. Jordan first met Jackson briefly in a restaurant at age 5, but the second meeting was far more consequential. In August 1992, Jackson’s car had broken down in Los Angeles, so he made his way to Rent-A-Wreck, the car rental agency of the hip at that time. There, the owner, Dave Schwartz, told Jackson that he could take a car for his use free if he would just talk with his stepson Jordan, who was a huge fan of Jackson. Jordan’s mother June Chandler allowed her son to speak with Jackson, the conversation lasting five or ten minutes. As the conversation closed, June gave Jackson her home phone number and suggested that Jackson might like to phone her son some other time. Shortly after, Jackson left for Europe to continue his Dangerous tour. A month or two later, whilst still on tour, Jackson put through his first phone call to Jordan which lasted just ten minutes. Jackson continued calling the boy and the conversations became longer and longer, finally culminating in calls lasting up to three hours.
In February 1993, after Jackson finished the second leg of the Dangerous tour and had returned to Neverland, he invited Jordan, his sister Lily and June to Neverland for the weekend. At this point, Jordan stayed with his mother and sister in one of the guest units. A week or two later they returned to Neverland for the weekend again, once again Jordan and Lily stayed in the guest unit with their mother. As you may recall, the guest units were quite some distance from the main house. Brett Barnes was also present at Neverland on this occassion. That weekend, Jackson took the Chandler family to Toys ‘R Us, and the children were encouraged to help themselves to whatever toys they liked, with Jackson footing the bill. On their third weekend visit not long after, Jordan asked to sleep in Jackson’s bedroom as there were other boys present who would be sleeping there too – Frank & Eddie Cascio and Macaulay Culkin. June refused, and Jordan, once again, slept in the guest unit with his family.
At the end of March 1993, Jackson invited the family to Las Vegas for a short trip to take in the sights and sounds of Sin City. They flew from Los Angeles in a private jet, and stayed in a three bedroom suite at the Mirage, both courtesy of Steve Wynn. June and Lily took one bedroom, Jordan another, and Jackson the third. On the first night there, Jordan and Jackson watched the horror movie The Exorcist. After the movie Jordan was feeling scared, and rather than telling Jordan that he should go to his mother, Jackson suggested Jordan stay in the bed with him. This was the first night Jordan shared a bed with Jackson, but in the morning June expressed displeasure at the sleeping arrangements and told Jordy he wasn’t to share a bed with Jackson ever again. Now it was Jackson’s turn to be scared – he had spent a lot of time, not to mention money and effort – grooming Jordy to share a bed, and he wasn’t going to have this opportunity snatched away from him now that it had become a reality. That night at eleven thirty, Jackson turned up to June’s door, crying and shaking, begging of June, “You don’t trust me? We’re a family. Why are you doing this? Why are you not allowing Jordie to be with me?”. After around 30 minutes of Jackson begging and crying, June finally relented and agreed to Jordan sharing a bed with Jackson, and for the rest of Jordan and Jackson’s relationship they shared a bed every night they were together. The following day, Jackson bought June a gold bracelet from Cartier, presumably as a thank you gift.
Over the next few months, Jordan travelled regularly to Neverland to spend time with Jackson, sometimes with his mother and sister, sometimes without. On all visits, Jordan stayed with Jackson in his bedroom and when June and Lily accompanied him, they stayed in the guest units. Such was the trust June had in Jackson, in the spring of 1993 Jackson was invited to stay at the Chandler home. Jackson would stay for up to a week at a time at the Chandler’s, staying in Jordan’s bedroom (where there was only one bed). Jackson stayed a total of 30 nights in Jordan’s bedroom from the beginning of April until the end of June that year. If it was a school day, Jackson would depart in the morning at the same time as Jordan, only to return when Jordan was finished school for the day. During this period, June came home one day to find an expensive jewellery set – earrings, a necklace, and a ring – on her bed, another gift from Jackson. On another occassion, June received a $7000 gift voucher for Fred Segal, an upmarket department store in Los Angeles, from Jackson.
In early May 1993, Jackson took the family on a trip for four to five days to Disneyworld in Florida, and again in June for another four to five days. As with Las Vegas, June and Lily slept in one room of the suite while Jordan and Jackson shared another. In late May 1993, Jackson took the family on a four day trip to the tiny principality of Monaco for the World Music Awards. June and Lily had a seperate room and Jordan stayed with Michael the whole trip. After the four days the four of them travelled to Eurodisney for a couple of days.
Around this time, plans were made for Jordan to accompany Jackson on the final leg of the Dangerous tour which was due to begin at the end of August, with June’s full blessing.
In July 1993, June needed to travel to New York to attend her brother’s wedding. Jackson’s assistant Norma Stakos organised two suites at the Rhiga Royal hotel. Jordan, June and Lily stayed in one of the suites, although Jordan wasn’t really spending much time in the moment due to his lengthy, private phone calls from Jackson. Two days after the wedding Jackson arrived in New York and checked in to the Rhiga Royal, upon which Jordan moved across the hall into Jackson’s suite for the remaining few days. This was probably the last time Jordan slept with Jackson as his father gained custody of Jordan soon after and would allow no more sleepovers.
Even if you have reason to disbelieve the Chandler’s other claims, in this case, regarding the one-on-one sleepovers, Jackson’s behaviour fits perfectly with what we have learned from his other special friends Wade Robson and Brett Barnes detailed above. All in all, Jordan and Jackson shared a bed, one-on-one, for around 70 days over a five month period.
As can be clearly seen, Jackson went to great lengths to spend one-on-one nights with his especially chosen friends. Flying them in from overseas, taking them on trips, buying them gifts, keeping parents sweet, and making lengthy phone calls to “stay in touch”. A great deal of effort, especially when he had an extended family full of nieces and nephews who lived nearby that he could call on at any time if he felt he needed the company of a child. It would be churlish to suggest that the hundreds of thousands of dollars Jackson spent on his special friends and their families could have alleviated the suffering of thousands of impoverished children, but that fact does remain.
Jackson’s strategy was also disturbing. Whenever he travelled, he took families with him for a veneer of respectabilty, yet insisted on seperating those families and having the boys stay in his room.
We have only looked at three of his friends in detail for this essay, there were others who came before (Emmanuel Lewis, Jimmy Safechuck, Jonathan Spence, Sean Lennon, Frank Cascio, Eddie Cascio) and after (Omer Bhatti, JoJo Elatab, “the boys from Los Olivos”), all of whom have been shown anecdotally to also have slept with Jackson. Jackson mischaracterized the sleepovers with boys by explaining “We’re going to sleep, I tuck them in and I put a little like, er, music on and when it’s story time I read a book. We go to sleep with the fireplace on. I give them hot milk, you know, we have cookies, it’s very charming, it’s very sweet, it’s what the whole world should do.”, when in actual fact it was testified that they played video games, watched videos and ate junk food well into the early hours of the morning – an assault on the senses for young boys (and not very healthy either).
Let’s not forget that Wade Robson, Brett Barnes and Jordan Chandler spent a considerable time alone with Jackson both at Neverland and in hotel rooms and suites, so of course they needed to get changed, and have baths and showers, while Jackson was present. I’m sure that point will make you think. You may also ponder why Jackson had boys sleep with him when their parents were nearby – why not play with them (if that’s what he wanted to do, nobody is judging him for that) and then allow them to return to their families while he slept? And why such a staggering amount of sleepovers with boys, (over 850 with just these three boys alone)? One can only conclude that there was some other motive beyond simply having a sleepover with a friend. Note that none of these boys ever mentioned Jackson sleeping on the floor or on a cot, it was always Jackson in the bed with them. Such was Jackson’s compulsion for these one-on-one sleepovers that upon returning to the US at the end of 1993 when damaging allegations, rumor and innuendo surrounding these sleepovers were swirling, he immediately phoned to have one of his special friends to be delivered to his bed. One wonders how anybody could think such sleepovers were “innocent”. Would parents have trusted Jackson so much with their sons had they known he had books full of pictures of naked boys stored in his bedroom at Neverland?
I doubt it.
Brett Barnes speaks out in defense of Jackson
The Robson family speaks out in defence of Jackson
- Q. Are you aware of any allegations being made that Mr. Jackson inappropriately touched you when you were with him?
- A. Yes, I am. And I’m very mad about that.
Q. You’re mad about it?
A. Because it’s untrue, and they’re putting my name through the dirt. And I’m really, really, really not happy about it.
Macauley Culkin also wasn’t happy:
“I couldn’t believe that, first of all, these people were saying these things or — let alone that it was out there and people were thinking that kind of thing about me.” – Macauley Culkin testimony