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Mystery of Dorothy’s Stolen Ruby Slippers Explored in New Book


Gregg Wooding, 972-567-7660

“Under The Rainbow” author claims iconic slippers from The Wizard of Oz brought despair to all whose lives they touched

WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. – The iconic ruby-red slippers worn by Judy Garland in MGM’s classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz brought misery and tragedy to everyone who came into contact with them, a new book claims.

Almost 85 years after its Hollywood debut, the story of Dorothy and her dog Toto’s perilous descent into the mythical land of Oz is enjoying a rebirth, including Universal Pictures’ film adaptation of the popular Broadway musical “Wicked.”

In the book “Under The Rainbow,” author Jeff Keene delves into the mysterious events surrounding the disappearance of what are among Hollywood’s most famous and valuable items of movie memorabilia.

The original sequin-covered ruby slippers, one of four pairs made in the 1930s by costume designer Gilbert Adrian for about four dollars, have an estimated value of $6 million today.

But the slippers’ yellow-brick road has been paved with theft, kidnapping, and even threats of murder, Keene said.

“The tragedy behind the slippers is being in contact with them at all – from the FBI to museum workers in Grand Rapids to retired secret service agent Michael Insabella who helped recover them, and even the man who found them originally in the MGM lot,” said Keene.

‘Like the ring in the Lord of the Rings, they [the slippers] grow heavy on the person who is forced to part with them one way or another through death, arrest, or selling them.”

A Tale of Slippery Ill Fortune

Terry Martin, who was convicted last year and sentenced in January for stealing the slippers — described as an “American treasure” — from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2005, was struck by chronic pulmonary disease.

Federal agents raided Insabella’s Florida home, after falsely suspecting him of being involved in the slippers’ disappearance — placing him under a cloud of suspicion that followed him throughout his life.

And even Garland’s accidental death from barbiturate overdose at age 47 in 1969 has been linked to the discovery of the legendary shoes in a dusty corner of an MGM backlot.

The “death of young Judy Garland and a few months later the shoes were recovered makes us want to believe there were ‘pulleys and levers being pulled in the universe as Judy released her tormented soul with her addictions and family problems’,” Keene said, quoting writer Emma Bowls.

“How sad for someone so beloved by so many.”

Keene wrote the book in part to exonerate Insabella, his father-in-law and a retired secret service agent who was plunged under suspicion after helping to recover the stolen slippers after they’d been missing for 13 years.

“Someone said the shoes were in his possession, but they never were,” said Keene.

Insabella, who died in 2022 and was never charged with a crime, commissioned Keene to tell the story of the slippers’ recovery “quickly and truthfully to clear his name of wrongdoing.”

“People watch the movie, and get lost in the allure that the slippers have some kind of magic,” said Keene, who explores evidence, interviews and news reports to piece together the puzzle of how the slippers were stolen and eventually recovered.

This spring “Under the Rainbow” won first prize in the 2024 BookFest Book Awards.


About the Author

Jeff Keene II, aka Peg Leg Penmen, is the award-winning author of “Under The Rainbow,” which delves into the mysterious events surrounding the disappearance of what are among Hollywood’s most famous and valuable items of movie memorabilia. From seminary school to scientist and public school teacher, Keene has led an interesting and impactful life. Despite a tragic line-of-duty firefighting injury in New York that left him with only one foot, Jeff hasn’t let anything stop him from living life to the fullest. For information, visit

MEDIA INTERVIEWS & INQUIRIES: Gregg Wooding, 972-567-7660

Suggested Interview Questions

  • Why did you write "Under the Rainbow"? What is your book about?

  • Why is the book timely? Tell us about the new film "Wicked," Hollywood's latest rendition of the Wizard of Oz airing later this year.

  • Why did you name the book "Under the Rainbow," instead of the class lyric "Over the Rainbow"?

  • Why is there such a fascination with the ruby red slippers from the Wizard of Oz?

  • How many pairs of ruby slippers were produced and who produced them? How may were in the film?

  •  Why do you call the ruby slippers the most expensive Hollywood prop in history?  What are the ruby slippers worth?

  • What is the tragedy or mysterious story behind the stolen ruby red slippers?

  • Which pair of ruby slippers has seen the most action? Can you tell us about what happened to the ruby slippers in 2005? What court filings have made news headlines in recent days and years?

  •  Tell us about the most famous possessor of the ruby slippers -- in the classic film and real life.   

  • In your book, you identify a thread connecting Judy Garland's death and the reappearance of the ruby slippers. 

  • Tell us about your discussion in the book of the word "coincidence," borrowing a definition from American fiction author Emma Bull.

  • Tell us about your personal connection to the ruby slippers. How did the FBI get involved? Who was Michael Insabella? 

  • What do you mean when you say "people who possessed the world's most famous slippers with a pure heart" experienced benevolent results and those who coveted the world's most famous slippers suffered ill-fortune. Give me examples of the benevolence and the ill fortune possessors of the ruby slippers experienced. 

  • How can the public purchase the book and where can they can keep up with you writing online and in social media?


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