Feds: Stolen Ruby Slippers Worn In ‘Wizard of Oz’ Recovered

Posted at 12:57 PM, Sep 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-04 12:57:24-04

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Federal authorities say they have recovered a pair of sequined ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” that were stolen from a museum in her northern Minnesota hometown 13 years ago.

The slippers were taken from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids in August 2005 by someone who climbed through a window and broke into the small display case. The shoes were insured for $1 million. Law enforcement offered an initial $250,000 reward, and a fan in Arizona offered another $1 million in 2015.

Rhys Thomas, author of “The Ruby Slippers of Oz,” told NBC News the shoes are valued in the millions. Thomas said the last pair of shoes to sell at a private action went for $2 million.

“The ruby slippers are the holy grail of all Hollywood memorabilia,” he said.

The FBI planned to announce details of how the shoes were found at a news conference Tuesday. The North Dakota U.S. Attorney Christopher Myers and Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson were due to attend.

The slippers had been on loan to the museum from Hollywood memorabilia collector Michael Shaw. Three other pairs that Garland wore in the movie are held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Smithsonian and a private collector.

Shaw originally bought the shoes in 1970 for $2,000. He told the New York Times he was overjoyed by the return of the shoes.

Michael Shaw, who purchased the shoes for $2,000 in 1970, according tothe New York Times, was overjoyed to learn they had been found after more than a decade.

“It was really one of the most thrilling moments of my life when they said, ‘We’ve got them,’” Shaw said, holding back tears.

The person who ran off with the shoes after Shaw lent them to the museum smashed the window on an emergency exit door before swiping the glimmering footwear, authorities said.

The news that the shoes had been stolen crushed Shaw at the time.

“I felt literally my knees buckle from underneath,” he said. “I had had them and took care of them for over 35 years.”

The ruby slippers are key in the 1939 movie. After mysteriously landing in the colorful Land of Oz after a tornado hit her farm in Kansas, Garland’s character, Dorothy, has to click the heels of her slippers three times and repeat “there’s no place like home” to return.

The shoes are made from about a dozen different materials, including wood pulp, silk thread, gelatin, plastic and glass. Most of the ruby color comes from sequins, but the bows of the shoes contain red glass beads.

The genre-busting Wizard of Oz – presented in black and white, and color – was a box office smash and won multiple Academy Awards, including the Oscars for best picture and best cinematography.

Garland, who was born Frances Gumm, lived in Grand Rapids, about 200 miles north of Minneapolis, until she was 4½, when her family moved to Los Angeles. She died of a barbiturate overdose in 1969.

The Judy Garland Museum, which opened in 1975 in the house where she lived, says it has the world’s largest collection of Garland and Wizard of Oz memorabilia.