GARY — A Region mystery has been solved and it was a real thriller.

Five years ago, the Michael Jackson memorial that was carved from stone after his abrupt death in 2009 mysteriously disappeared from its longtime pedestal in the front yard of the Jackson childhood home in Gary.

The massive 5,000-pound granite monument featuring images and song lyrics of the King of Pop had for years greeted visitors to the house at 2300 Jackson Street where the world-renowned Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Jackson 5 were raised.

Then in 2017, it vanished without a trace.

It turns out, the disappearance may not have been the work of a smooth criminal. The huge memorial didn't go very far.

Gary documentarian Paul King, whose Steel City Storm videos have more than 1.7 million views and about 8,000 subscribers on YouTube, discovered the monument while shooting a video at the house.

It was tucked away under tarp and bricks in the backyard of the neighboring home, which was originally supposed to be a Michael Jackson museum that has not yet opened.

"When it came down, people were really upset," King said. "People come from all over the world to see that house and the monument is part of it. People were outraged. I don't know why they took it down when it was donated to the city. People should be able to see it."

Gary police told The Times in 2018 that the monument was taken down when Janet and Randy Jackson visited their family home in Gary in October 2017. Lt. Thomas Pawlak said the department reached out to the family and found out that it was taken down to do a video shoot and would be put back up after some landscaping work was done.

"My understanding is the memorial is private property as is 2300 Jackson St.," city of Gary spokesman Michael Gonzales said. "If it’s there and under a tarp, I don’t know any details."

King said the monument appears to have been left behind the neighboring house for years, given the condition of the tarp draped over it and the skids it rests on.

"It's just sat there under a tarp on some skids at the house next door," he said. "I was walking around the house just looking and there it was. It's a shame that it's just sitting there."

The landmark statue was unveiled in June 2010. On the front, the black granite monument reads "King of Pop Michael J. Jackson August 29, 1958 to June 25, 2009. Hometown of Michael Jackson – Gary, Ind. Never can say goodbye." It features an image of Jackson moonwalking against a backdrop of the moon.

The statue was originally located at the U.S. Steel Yard in downtown Gary, where it was displayed for his memorial service the July after his death.

It stood outside his childhood home since Katherine Jackson, other family members and then-mayor Rudy Clay unveiled the "beautiful piece of art" in front of hundreds of cheering fans who sang "We are the World" in June 2010.

"It's a big slap in the face to the King of Pop that the plaque is just sitting there in the backyard," King said. "The city just put signs on the highway and the street directing people to the Jackson House. You would go there expecting to see a monument."

King hopes it will be restored to where it was originally displayed.

"Nobody really knows why they took it down and never put it back," he said. "It's a mystery. There's no official explanation. It's a tourist attraction and an impressive plaque. Nobody knows why it was taken down. It would be cool if bringing attention to it got it put back up. It's beautiful and they're trying to bring tourists in to see the house."

Over the years, King has filmed more than 1,100 Steel City Storm videos in his native Gary. He's often chronicled Michael Jackson sites, such as the schools he attended, Lucky's Lounge where he did his first paid performance, Gilroy Stadium where he sung in a talent show and Steel Town Records that put out the first Jackson 5 album.

He wishes more of the buildings associated with the Jackson family had been preserved and more was done to highlight their legacy, given their outsized impact on pop culture in the 20th century.

"Almost nothing's been preserved beside the house," he said. "There's nothing for tourists to do and look at. It's a huge missed opportunity. There are all those Michael Jackson fans who still come to the city of Gary. At least open the museum and sell souvenirs."

He hopes the city will do more to recognize its native son, one of the most critically acclaimed and best-selling musical artists of all time.

"It's a damn shame they took the memorial down," he said.

For more information, visit youtube.com/c/TheSteelCityStorm.

Originally published on nwitimes.com, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.

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