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FBI Finds Ruby Slippers After 13 Years

Minneapolis, Minnesota —(Map)

Thirteen years after they were stolen, a pair of red slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz have been found. The FBI tracked the shoes down in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The classic movie The Wizard of Oz was first shown in movie theaters in 1939. In the movie, a young girl named Dorothy gets lost and has an adventure in a magical land. Along the way, she gets a pair of special red “ruby slippers”. At the end of the movie, Dorothy learns she is able to return home by clicking the heels of her shoes together three times, and saying, “There’s no place like home.”

A poster for the movie The Wizard of Oz.
The ruby slippers were worn by Judy Garland in the movie The Wizard of Oz.
The movie and the slippers are famous around the world.
This is a poster for the movie The Wizard of Oz.
(Source: MGM, via Wikimedia Commons.)

The movie and the ruby slippers are famous around the world. The movie was based on the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum. In the book, the slippers are silver. The movie makers changed the slippers to red so that the color of the shoes would show up more strongly.

Poster advertising The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, issued by the George M. Hill Company, 1900
In the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s slippers were silver.
The movie made the shoes red so the color would show up strongly.
(Source: W. W. Denslow, via Wikimedia Commons.)

During the making of the movie, Ms. Garland used many different pairs of ruby slippers. Some were used for close-ups and others were used for dancing. After the movie was made, the shoes were stored away and forgotten. In the 1970s, someone found and sold the old shoes.

A man named Michael Shaw bought one pair of the shoes for $2,000. He made money by renting the shoes out.

In 2005, he loaned the shoes to the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. But someone broke into the museum, smashed a glass display case, and stole the slippers.

Ruby Slippers on display in the Smithsonian.
Ms. Garland used many different pairs of ruby slippers.
Long after the movie was made, the shoes were found and sold.
They are now worth millions. This pair is in the Smithsonian Museum.
(Source: Jon Smiley, via Flickr.com.)

After the shoes were stolen, an insurance company paid Mr. Shaw $800,000 for the loss of the shoes, but no one ever solved the crime.

In the summer of 2017, 12 years after the slippers were stolen, someone came to the insurance company offering information about the slippers.

After working for a year, the FBI finally tracked the shoes down in Minneapolis Minnesota.

The recovered ruby slippers, along with an FBI badge. The single sequin shown here was found at the crime scene at the Judy Garland Museum, from which a pair of Ruby Slippers went missing in 2005.
A pair of red slippers from The Wizard of Oz were stolen in 2005.
The FBI tracked the shoes down in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
(Source: Smithsonian.)

To be sure they had the real shoes, the FBI took the slippers to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. This museum has another pair of Ms. Garland’s ruby slippers.

In 2017, the museum took its ruby slippers off display to fix and clean them. Dawn Wallace, who works for the Smithsonian, took care of the slippers. Because she had to work so carefully when cleaning the shoes, she knew all about them.

Dawn Wallace studying a ruby slipper.
Dawn Wallace studied the shoes from the FBI. She learned they were real.
Ms. Wallace knew all about the shoes after cleaning the Smithsonian’s pair.
(Source: Smithsonian.)

When Ms. Wallace studied the shoes that the FBI brought to her, she soon found several things that helped her know they were real.

The Smithsonian’s slippers aren’t truly a pair. The shoes are similar, but they don’t really belong together. One is bigger than the other, and they are made in slightly different ways. But the stolen shoes actually match the Smithsonian’s shoes. You could split them up and have two pairs that really match.

Two pairs of Ruby Slippers, covered in red sequins. Black arrows indicate which shoes create a pair
The Smithsonian slippers are similar, but they don’t really belong together.
But the stolen shoes actually match the Smithsonian shoes.
You could split them up and have two pairs that really match.
(Source: Smithsonian.)

So far, no one knows what will happen with the shoes that have been found. The Smithsonian’s newly cleaned ruby slippers will go back on display in October.

Minneapolis, Minnesota


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