A pair of ruby slippers from the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz has been recovered, 13 years after the shoes were stolen, according to a report from the FBI.
At a Tuesday press conference, representatives of the Grand Rapids, Minn., Police Department and the FBI recounted the story of the shoes' theft, recovery, and meaning.
The shoes vanished in August 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum. A collector, Michael Shaw, had loaned the shoes to the museum -- which was historically the childhood home of actress Judy Garland -- for the annual Wizard of Oz festival in Grand Rapids.
For years, the whereabouts of the famed slippers were unknown, after thieves broke in through a back door of the museum, smashed a display case, and took off with the slippers. The loss was devastating to the community. "The thieves not only took the slippers, they took a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city's most famous children," said Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson.
The stolen slippers had been known as the "traveling" pair -- one of four known sets of slippers that were created as props for the classic fantasy film. Another pair has been on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., since 1979.
Many leads regarding the stolen pair over the years resulted in dead ends. One theory was that the shoes had been tossed into a nearby lake. The Itasca County sheriff's dive team scoured the body of water, with no results.
However, a break in the case came last summer, when an individual approached the shoes' insurance company -- they were insured for $1 million -- with information regarding their whereabouts. At that point, "it became apparent that those involved were in reality attempting to extort the owners of the slippers," said FBI agent Christopher Dudley.
Afterward, the Grand Rapids Police Department reached out to the FBI for assistance. One year later, the shoes were recovered in an undercover operation in Minneapolis. Then they were shipped to the Smithsonian, compared to the pair in its collection, and verified as authentic.
But the saga of Dorothy's slippers is not yet concluded.
"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," Dudley said.
He also asked for help from the public.
"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," said Dudley. "We are asking that you come forward."