Taylor Swift Poses with Prince William at ‘Splendid’ London Concert

Heritage Auctions
One of the four existing pairs of ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore while playing Dorothy Gale in “The Wizard of Oz.” This pair, which was stolen in 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn., is being auctioned in December.

The Judy Garland Museum in 2005 lost a pair of ruby red slippers that its namesake wore while playing Dorothy Gale in “The Wizard of Oz.” A burglar broke one of the museum’s windows, smashed a plexiglass display case and stole the slippers in the dead of night.

Although the FBI found them in 2018, the slippers have never returned to the museum, and there’s a chance they never will.

But the museum is trying to bring them “home.” Janie Heitz, the museum’s executive director, said they’re on a mission to raise enough money to buy the slippers, which the FBI has said are appraised at $3.5 million, when they go up for auction in December.

The museum, which is in Garland’s childhood home in Grand Rapids, Minn., never owned the shoes. In 2005, Michael Shaw loaned them to the museum for 10 weeks, but Terry Jon Martin stole them in the middle of the exhibition. Shaw is now selling the shoes through Heritage Auctions and Heitz said she hopes they end up in Grand Rapids.

“They need a home, so maybe we can be that home for them,” Heitz said, adding “It would be a great happy Hollywood ending.”

The Hollywood beginning happened when Martin stole the shoes. He was a career criminal who had been out of the game for about a decade but was lured back by a “mob associate” from his past promising “one last score.” He had never heard of “The Wizard of Oz” and “had no idea” about the slippers’ cultural significance, his attorney wrote in a court filing earlier this year.

The shoes were insured for $1 million at the time, which led Martin to assume that they were bedecked with real gemstones, according to the attorney. He had planned to sell those rubies, but when he realized after the theft that the slippers were adorned with red sequins, he passed them off to an associate. He never wanted to see them again, his attorney wrote.

Although he had the slippers for less than 48 hours, Martin’s theft sparked a nearly 18-year-old mystery about who had stolen the shoes and why.

Neither Martin nor authorities saw the slippers for more than a decade. Federal investigators only found them in 2018 during a sting operation in Minneapolis. But since then, officials have revealed little about how the slippers were recovered or what led them to indict Martin years later in May 2023.

The museum, which had been open for two years when the slippers disappeared, “never really bounced back” from the theft, Heitz told The Post in January.

“Nobody was going to loan their Judy Garland memorabilia to us anymore,” Heitz said. “And so I think there were just a lot of opportunities that we missed out on.”

On Friday, Heitz declined to reveal how much money the museum has raised so far but said organizers hope to end up above the $3.5 million appraisal.

They’re already getting help. Minnesota lawmakers have provided $100,000 to back the effort, and Gov. Tim Walz (D) said on social media that officials would buy the slippers “to make sure they remain safe at home in Grand Rapids – on display for all to enjoy – under 24/7, Ocean’s 11-proof security.”

Joe Maddalena, executive vice president at Heritage Auctions, said he’s inspired by the museum’s fundraising effort, which he called “a really amazing story,” and hopes it’s successful. Heritage will take the slippers on a four-city tour in October and November – New York, London, Tokyo and a fourth city that has not been finalized, he said.

But having the slippers displayed in the museum would permanently give more people a chance to see “the most important film artifact in the world,” Maddalena said. As of now, the public can view two of the four existing pairs on the East and West coasts in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, respectively. A third pair in Minnesota would give greater access to the middle of the country.

“It would be an amazing testament to ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” Maddalena said before pivoting to the importance of the slippers. “They’re one of the most popular cultural artifacts. They kind of trump everything.”