Local Current Blog

Slippers worn by Minnesota music icon Judy Garland in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ recovered 13 years after being stolen from Grand Rapids museum

One of the other pairs of slippers worn by Judy Garland in 'The Wizard of Oz,' on display in 2011. (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

The Wizard of Oz taught us that there’s no place like home, but for a certain pair of ruby red slippers home has been a faraway thought; until now. The shoes, one of four pairs worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, went missing 13 years ago on Aug. 28. At the time, they were on loan from collector Michael Shaw to the Judy Garland Museum in the actor’s birthplace of Grand Rapids, Minn.

The whole theft was a head-scratcher. No fingerprints were left behind, and there was no security camera footage. The police were left only with a broken acrylic display and a single red sequin left behind by the thieves.

Years went by, various leads were followed, and a $1 million reward was even proposed, but nothing valuable turned up until recently, according to a statement released by Sgt Robert Stein of the FBI. The slippers were recovered earlier this summer in Minneapolis, but authorities are not releasing any detailed information since the investigation is still ongoing.

Because of this, they have yet to release the names of any suspects, but there is no doubt that the people who have been following this case are eagerly awaiting more information. One such person is journalist Rhys Thomas, who wrote the book The Ruby Slippers of Oz. “These shoes are the holy grail of all Hollywood memorabilia,” Thomas told the New York Times.

Shaw bought this pair in 1970 for $2,000, from costume designer Kent Warner. The slippers were added to Shaw’s collection of other Oz memorabilia, including a witch’s hat, Dorothy’s dress, and a munchkin outfit. Although Shaw was known for lending out the slippers to various museums, speculation arose in Grand Rapids when it was discovered that the pair of shoes were slightly different sizes.

Perhaps they were a mixed pair…or, some thought, maybe Shaw had deliberately given the Judy Garland Museum a fake pair, arranged for them to be stolen, and then collected the insurance money. This claim, however, was vehemently denied by Shaw, who said in a 2015 interview with Newsweek: “There’s more to my life than a pair of pumps…they realized I had nothing to do with it. And basically the museum knew it too. They were reaching at straws to try to throw the guilt away from themselves.” (Shaw ended up settling with insurance in 2007 for $800,000.)

Luckily, we won’t have to think up hypotheticals for much longer. As the investigation presses on, we are bound to get some real answers soon. For now, we can just be thankful that the slippers are no longer “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and are back home safe.