As a freckled girl in pig tails and ruby slippers once said: “There’s no place like home.” Well, it looks like Dorothy’s iconic shoes from the ‘Wizard of Oz’ might finally be heading back to their rightful home, 13 years after they were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minneapolis.
The shoes, a priceless piece of film memorabilia, were reclaimed in an undercover investigation by the FBI. The discovery was revealed in a press conference today, and ends years of rumour and speculation about the slippers’ whereabouts.
The FBI were first tipped off about the slippers’ hiding place last summer, when a person approached the company that insured the shoes, claiming they had information on their location. It was eventually discovered that the individual was attempting to blackmail the shoes’ owners. Special Agent Christopher Dudley from Minneapolis’s FBI division led the investigation. He told reporters that the agency’s top priority was “the safe recovery of the slippers.”
Movie collector Michael Shaw loaned the shoes to the museum in 2005. Museum staff suggested to Shaw that they store the slippers in a vault overnight to protect them from thieves, but he declined the offer. The former acting coach was concerned that the delicate material would be damaged by too much handling, and instead put his trust in the museum’s security guards.
However, museum staff arrived one morning in August 2005 to find the slippers gone, and the case containing them smashed. The alarm had tripped, but for some reason had failed to alert the police that a robbery was in action.
Museum co-founder Jon Miner told local station KQDS at the time: “The biggest thing that ever happened to our museum was getting the slippers stolen. We were literally crying.”
Several search attempts have been launched over the years to find the slippers. At first, police first offered a $250,000 reward for any information that led to the shoes’ safe recovery. Not long after, an anonymous donor offered a further $1 million for clues to their location and the name of the person who took them. The museum even hired a private investigator in 2013, but to no avail.
Although a movie treasure, the stolen slippers are not the only pair in existence. Seven pairs in total were crafted for Garland during the classic film’s production. For a long time, eccentric film buff Kent Warner owned six of the seven pairs, along with all the other movie memorabilia he collected during his time as a Hollywood costumer.
Warner attempted to auction many of the pairs in the years running up to his death in 1984. The mystery surrounding their whereabouts inspired the 2016 documentary ‘The Slippers‘ by Morgan White.