The FBI always gets their man — or, in this case, their slippers, a pair of red ruby slippers.
Thirteen years after Dorothy’s sequined red shoes from The Wizard of Oz were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the FBI has recovered them, proving there is no place like home.
It’s unclear if anyone will be charged, reported CNN on September 4, 2018.
A 2017 tip to Detective Brian Mattson led to “connections outside of Minnesota,” the Grand Rapids Police Department said, explaining why the FBI took the lead in the probe.
The shoes were recovered in Minneapolis earlier this summer, Sgt. Robert Stein said in a statement. An individual had approached the company that insured the slippers, saying he had information about the shoes and how they could be returned, and “it became apparent that those involved were in reality attempting to extort the owners of the slippers,” Special Agent Christopher Dudley, who led the investigation from the FBI’s Minneapolis Division, said in a statement reported by CNN.
The red slippers possess magical powers in The Wizard of Oz, with Dorothy learning that she must tap the heels three times and say, “There’s no place like home,” in order to be transported from Oz back to Kansas, and her aunt and uncle’s hardscrabble farm.
These slippers are one of four known pairs that Garland wore as Dorothy in the 1939 film. They are often said to be one of the most valued props in movie history.
At the time of the 2005 theft, the slippers were on loan to the museum from a collector in North Hollywood, California.
Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota on June 10, 1922, to Frances Ethel Gumm at the Itasca Hospital. According to the museum’s website, Judy “joined her sisters in a first song-and-dance routine performed at the Itasca Mercantile, located at the corner of Hwys 169 & 2, ‘When My Sugar Walks Down the Street.’ ”
“Her first solo was ‘Jingle Bells’ performed in a white net dress created by her mother at her father’s Grand Theater located on South Pokegama avenue next to the old Rialto Theater. Judy performed throughout North East and North Central Minnesota from 1924-1926.”
In 1938, at the age of 16, she was cast as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, one of the most iconic characters in movie history.
The slippers in question belonged to collector Michael Shaw, who bought them for $2,000 in 1970 from Kent Warner, a costumer who found them on an MGM lot. Shaw’s collection also included Dorothy’s dress, the witch’s hat, and a Munchkin outfit.
“For years, Shaw lent the shoes to museums for several thousand dollars, often donating the proceeds to children’s charities,” reported The New York Times.
Shaw told Newsweek in 2015, “I felt like I was hit in the stomach when I got the call. My knees buckled, and I went right down on the floor. I had taken care of those shoes for 35 years.”
Valued at up to $3 million, the stolen slippers would be hard to sell on the black market, experts said after the theft. “Whoever has them, illicitly, has their hands full with them,” journalist Rhys Thomas said in the 2016 documentary, The Slippers.
“Sometime between 5:45 pm on August 27th and 9:45 am on August 28th, a burglar broke a window in the museum’s back door and entered,” the Grand Rapids Police Department said in a news release. “The thief smashed a Plexiglas case resting on a wooden podium in the museum’s gallery and made off with the slippers that were insured for $1 million. The alarm did not sound to a central dispatch station. No fingerprints were left behind.”
There were rumors of an inside job, which the museum officials always denied.
Museum co-founder Jon Miner told a CNN affiliate in 2015 that the theft was “the biggest thing that ever happened to our museum….We were literally crying.”
An anonymous donor offered a $1 million reward for their return, but the offer expired after 10 years.
In 2012, Leonardo DiCaprio was named as the force behind a group of movie lovers who bought another of the pairs. The slippers will be displayed at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles next year.
Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com