FBI Recovers Dorothy’s Famous Ruby Slippers 13 Years After Their Mysterious Theft

There’s no place like home.

Dorothy’s famous ruby slippers are back where they belong at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., following their 2005 theft, a case that has baffled law enforcement officials over the years. The FBI announced this morning that the sequined shoes — one of only four remaining pairs worn by Garland during the filming of the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz” — have been recovered. No suspects have been named, but FBI authorities plan to hold a press conference at 1 p.m. today to share more details with the public.

One of four original pairs of Dorthy’s slippers was stolen from a Michigan museum in 2005.
CREDIT: Ed Zurga/Shutterstock

At the time of their disappearance, the ruby slippers were on loan from their owner, memorabilia collector Michael Shaw, so that they could be displayed during an annual festival celebrating Garland, who was born in Grand Rapids. The theft was reported by a museum employee to the Grand Rapids Police Department just before 10 a.m. on Aug. 28, 2005. Investigators working the crime scene observed that a window on an emergency exit door had been shattered and the glass display case housing the ruby slippers had been broken into. With no fingerprints or security camera footage, however, police were left with few clues.

Judy Garland (L) stars in the iconic 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.”
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Local, federal and private investigators chased a variety of theories, among them that Shaw had actually given the museum a fake pair and arranged to have them stolen so that he could receive insurance money. Others speculated that the thieves were simply a group of teenage pranksters who got spooked and dumped the shoes after stealing them.

In 2015, the Judy Garland Museum worked with the Itasca County Sheriff’s dive team to investigate one theory that someone threw the slippers in the nearby Tioga Mine Pit Lake. Divers scoured the lake’s depths four times, but they came up empty-handed.

The slippers’ whereabouts continued to elude authorities. Valued at between $2 million and $3 million and thought to be able to fetch as much as $5 million at auction, the slippers would be difficult to sell on the black market, and even harder to hide. The other three remaining pairs are owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Smithsonian and a private collector, respectively.

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