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Dorothy's stolen ruby slippers from 'The Wizard of Oz' found by FBI after 13 years

"It was really one of the most thrilling moments of my life when they said, 'We've got them,'" said Michael Shaw, who owns the iconic footwear.
by Kalhan Rosenblatt /  / Updated 

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A pair of Dorothy's ruby slippers stolen from a Minnesota museum 13 years ago were displayed by the FBI on Tuesday after the agency announced it had recovered the sequined shoes during a sting operation over the summer.

"Not only were these slippers stolen, but the memories of a lot Americans were stolen back in 2005," Jill Sanborn, special agent in charge of the Minneapolis Division of the FBI, told reporters. "We hope today that we give those memories back."

The flashy footwear — which presumably adorned actress Judy Garland's feet when she followed the yellow brick road in the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz" — were encased in a glass box during a news conference. Sanborn said the pair is one of four that still exists, including one housed in the Smithsonian where the stolen shoes were brought to be authenticated.

Image: The Wizard of Oz
Judy Garland as Dorothy wearing her ruby slippers in a scene from "The Wizard of Oz."Silver Screen Collection / Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The recently retrieved shoes first vanished in August 2005 after a break-in at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids in northern Minnesota.

An individual approached the museum last year, saying they had information on the slippers' whereabouts and how they could be returned. It was later determined that "those involved were in reality attempting to extort the owners of the slippers," Special Agent Christopher Dudley said in a statement.

During an undercover operation that followed a nearly year-long investigation, the shoes were recovered by the FBI, authorities said.

Multiple suspects have been identified, although Dudley said agents were working to ensure all of those involved with the initial theft and the extortion attempt have been located.

Neither Sanborn nor Dudley named any suspects or said if charges had been filed.

"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," Dudley said. "That's one of the things that makes this case resonate with so many."

Michael Shaw, who purchased the shoes for $2,000 in 1970, according to The New York Times, was overjoyed to learn they had been found after more than a decade.

"It was really one of the most thrilling moments of my life when they said, 'We've got them,'" Shaw said, holding back tears.

The person who ran off with the shoes after Shaw lent them to the museum smashed the window on an emergency exit door before hauling them away, authorities said.

The news that the sparkly pair was stolen was crushing.

"I felt literally my knees buckle from underneath," Shaw said. "I had had them and took care of them for over 35 years."

Rhys Thomas, author of "The Ruby Slippers of Oz," said the shoes are valued in the millions. Thomas said the last pair of shoes to sell at a private action went for $2 million.

"The ruby slippers are the holy grail of all Hollywood memorabilia," he added.

Shaw said his insurance company now owns the shoes after paying out a sum of $800,000, according to The Times. However, Shaw said he gets first dibs at buying them back.

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