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FBI Finally Recovers Stolen 'Wizard of Oz' Ruby Slippers After 13 Years

MGM / By Chris Evans via Wikimedia Commons

Nearly 80 years ago, Dorothy traveled to Oz wearing a pair of red ruby slippers. These shoes caused a lot of controversy from Munchkinland to the Emerald City, but Dorothy kept them safe.

Sure, she had to fight off the Wicked Witch of the West, but she did her best and got back to Kansas safely thanks to the shoes and the magical chant, "There's no place like home."

It's been a long time since they made their big trip with star of the movie Judy Garland, but they have remained an iconic accessory ever since.

It's said that there were four pairs of shoes made for the filming, and one of those pairs were kept in the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota. However, in 2005, the slippers were stolen.

Grand Rapids police ended up calling in the FBI, as the shoes are said to be worth millions of dollars and they had no leads.

How were the ruby slippers stolen?

They called it a simple "smash-and-grab" because the glass case they were in was destroyed. But no clues, footprints, or fingerprints were left behind, and coincidentally the surveillance camera happened to be malfunctioning that night.

Collector Michael Shaw owned the shoes and had them on loan to the museum. "I literally felt like I was hit in the stomach when I got the call," Shaw said in an interview back in 2015. "My knees buckled, and I went right down on the floor. I had taken care of those shoes for 35 years!"

The shoes were missing for 13 years

In the 13 years since they've been stolen, the police have been searching for them and asking the public to help identify any suspicious activity.

The Grand Rapids police chief Scott Johnson issued a statement when the shoes were stolen, saying, “the thieves not only took the slippers, they took a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city’s most famous children.”

An anonymous donor offered a $1 million reward for the location of the shoes and the name of the thief, giving a decade deadline, but in that time no one came forward.

The first lead came in 2017 when an individual approached the insurance company that the shoe's $1 million policy was with saying they knew where they were. It turned out that the person wasn't actually trying to do the right thing, they were attempting to extort the owner of the shoes. It was at this time that the Grand Rapids police called in the FBI for assistance.

Now they've been found

On Tuesday September 4th, the FBI revealed that they recently found the shoes after 13 years.

The shoes were discovered in a sting in Minneapolis conducted by the FBI, but that doesn't mean they are done their work on the case.

“From the outset,” Special Agent Christopher Dudley, leader of the investigation from the FBI’s Minneapolis Division said, “our top priority was the safe recovery of the slippers. We are still working to ensure that we have identified all parties involved in both the initial theft and the more recent extortion attempt for their return. This is very much an active investigation.”

Even though it didn't work before, they are hoping that now someone will come forward with more information.

“There are certainly people out there who have additional knowledge regarding both the theft and the individuals responsible for concealing the slippers all these years,” Dudley said. “We are asking that you come forward.”

Unlikely surprise

Even though it's surprising enough that the shoes turned up at all, that's not all that was discovered.

When the pair of shoes discovered in the sting were brought to the Smithsonian museum to compare them to the pair that are on display there, they discovered that not only are they the real deal, but they were actually a mismatched set with the pair on display!

“It was common that you would create multiple copies of costumes and props,” Curator Ryan Lintelman revealed, explaining that it is actually fairly common for props like this that are duplicated to get mixed up over time.

Source - FBI / ABC / BBC / Independent

At least now, 13 years after the theft, the shoes can be returned to their owner and the legacy of The Wizard of Oz can continue to live on.

Tanya has been writing for Shared for two years. She spends too much time thinking about dogs, Marvel movies, and ice cream. You can reach me at tanya@shared.com