Authorities have recovered a pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, Yahoo Entertainment can confirm, 13 years after they were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota.
The FBI unveiled the slippers during a press conference Tuesday, but a spokesperson for the Grand Rapids Police Department tells Yahoo they can’t release much information at this time as it’s an “ongoing investigation.”
The slippers are one of at least four known pairs used in the filming of the 1939 movie. The iconic shoes were on loan to the museum in Grand Rapids, Minn. — Garland’s hometown — by a private collector as part of a 10-week traveling tour. They were stolen in August 2005 after a burglar broke a window in the museum’s back door and entered. The thief then smashed a Plexiglas case containing the slippers and took off with them. The alarm didn’t sound, and no fingerprints were left behind. That pair of shoes was insured for $1 million.
“The police department really had no evidence and no clues to work with,” Grand Rapids Police Sergeant Robert Stein said in a statement. “All we had was a single [sequin] that had fallen off one of the slippers. The investigator assigned to the case was fearful that the thief might destroy the slippers if he believed the police were on his trail. Therefore, when rumors developed that local wayward youth were most likely responsible for the theft and had tossed the slippers into the Mississippi River or in one of the many water-filled iron ore pits that dot the landscape, we did little to dispel it.”
In 2015, during the 40th Annual Wizard of Oz Festival, divers even checked Tioga Mine Pit Lake, but they came up empty-handed.
“We believed that information would eventually surface and knew we were in this for the long haul,” Stein added. “Over the years, our officers investigated numerous tips as they came in, eliminating each one. The problem is that there are a great many reproductions out there and people believed that these were the stolen slippers. Each proved not to be the missing slippers. As recently as two weeks ago, we received a telephone call from a psychic telling us that she was sure she knew where the slippers were.”
There was also buzz that the burglary was an inside job, although the museum denied the rumors. A break in the case came in the summer of 2017 when a Grand Rapids police detective received a tip, which led to connections outside of Minnesota. That’s when the FBI got involved.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson adds, “When the slippers were snatched in that early morning burglary, the thief not only took the slippers but also a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city’s most famous children. We knew this day would eventually come and we are grateful to the FBI and all those that worked so hard to bring this piece of cinematic treasure out of the shadows and into the light. After all, ‘There’s no place like home!”
The slippers are valued between $2 to $3 million but could easily exceed that estimate at an auction. As for the other ruby slippers, one pair is purportedly owned by a private collector while another is on display in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington. Leonardo DiCaprio helped wrangle a third pair for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum.
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