“There’s no place like home,” said Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. So, when her famous ruby slippers came home after vanishing for 13 years, it was a cause for celebration. Didn’t even know the iconic shoes were missing? Don’t worry! We’ll follow the yellow brick road right through the whole story.
The Wizard of Oz: An Enduring Classic
The Wizard of Oz is one of the most iconic movies ever, continuing to make “greatest films ever” lists to this day. It was a massive production, with hundreds on set, timeless songs, and amazing actors that made the movie a hit to this day. It also brought Judy Garland, one of the greatest leading women in cinema, international fame. Not to mention the iconic symbols: Toto, the yellow brick road, the Wicked Witch of the West, and of course the ruby slippers.
Just like the film itself, the ruby slippers made quite the journey before becoming the symbol we know and love. Dorothy’s red sequined shoes were originally going to be silver, as they are in the novel. However, color movies were just beginning to take over, so creators wanted something that would catch the audiences’ eye, especially on the background of the yellow brick road! This led to the legendary decision made by scriptwriter Noel Langley: make the slippers red! Although he did not know it at the time, his decision would turn into one of the most well known symbols in the history of cinema.
The Home Of The Slippers
For decades, the famous ruby slippers remained in the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Grand Rapids is Garland’s birthplace and every year an annual “Wizard of Oz Festival” takes place there. The museum and its festival are a Mecca for Judy Garland and Wizard of Oz fans. In particular, fans flock to see the famous ruby slippers, on loan from Michael Shaw, a private collector.
Then, in 2005, tragedy struck when a thief broke in and stole the slippers one night. Like something out of a movie, the only piece of evidence was a single, red sequin. No fingerprints, no security cam footage. Grand Rapids Police Department immediately began an investigation, asking for tips from the public. Over the years they followed some strange leads, hearing everything from the slippers hanging in a bar in Missouri to them resting at the bottom of a lake. Sadly, however, for over ten years the case remained cold, with no leads, clues or suspects.
There’s No Place Like Home
Finally, in the summer of 2017, Detective Brian Mattson of the Grand Rapids Police Department received an anonymous tip. The investigation was back on. For a year, Grand Rapids Police worked alongside the FBI’s Art Crime Team and Laboratory following up on the tip. Their work paid off. The ruby slippers were found safe and sound in an undercover operation in Minneapolis this past July. But where did they go and how did they end up there?
Although the slippers were found, no arrests were made by the police or the FBI. There is speculation that there are multiple suspects on the line. However, everyone is remaining quiet for now, because, as one FBI agent put it “this is still a very, very active and ongoing investigation.”
While the criminals are still at large, the Judy Garland Museum is just happy to have the slippers back. Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson said, “They’re more than just a pair of shoes, the slippers. They’re an enduring symbol of the power of belief.”