A genuine piece of cinema and pop culture history has been recovered by the FBI. One of only four pairs of Judy Garland's ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota more than a decade ago in August of 2005. After years of searching, the slippers have been recovered following a year-long investigation. Special Agent Christopher Dudley, who led the investigation from the FBI's Minneapolis Division, had this to say.
"From the outset our top priority was the safe recovery of the slippers. we are still working to ensure that we have identified all parties involved in both the initial theft and the more recent extortion attempt for their return. This is very much an active investigation."
The FBI was working from a tip they received in summer 2017. An individual came to the company that insured the slippers, saying he had information about the shoes and how they could be returned. It became clear the individual was attempting to extort the rightful owners. Following an undercover operation in Minneapolis, the slippers were successfully recovered. Christopher Dudley had this to add.
"There are certainly people out there who have additional knowledge regarding both the theft and the individuals responsible for concealing the slippers all these years. We are asking that you come forward."
The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, which possesses one of the other pairs of slippers, assisted the FBI in the case. The museum analyzed and compared the recovered slippers with a pair that has been part of the Smithsonian collection since 1979. They were able to determine that the recovered pair was indeed genuine. In a bit of an interesting twist, it turns out the pair housed at the Smithsonian and the recovered pair are actually mismatched twins. Dudley is very aware of the significance that comes with finding these slippers.
"Recovering a cultural item of this importance is significant. So many people of all ages around the world have seen The Wizard of Oz and in that way have some connection to the slippers. That's one of the things that makes this case resonate with so many."
Released in 1939, The Wizard of Oz is widely considered to be one of the best and most significant accomplishments in cinema. Judy Garland's portrayal as Dorothy remains a cultural touchstone and her ruby red slippers are amongst the most recognizable items in all of movie history. The actresses' childhood home in Grand Rapids was turned into a museum in 1975 and remains a safe haven for The Wizard of Oz memorabilia, which is why the slippers were brought there in the first place. Since so few pairs actually exist, it's important that the FBI actually managed to recover the missing pair after all these years. You can check out photos of the slippers, as well as a video showcasing how the Smithsonian analyzed the famous footwear, for yourself below.