"Close your eyes and click your heels together three times..."

    Is it a longing for home, the idea of magical transportation, or the beauty of Dorothy's ruby slippers that charms us still?

    Interestingly enough, their existence is a bit of movie ingenuity. In the early 1900s, when author L. Frank Baum conceived of Dorothy's magical shoes in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , they were silver. But when the film version was being written in 1939, screenwriter Noel Langley decided silver wouldn't stand out on screen. With the stroke of his pen, the ruby slippers were created.

At least six pairs of the ruby slippers were made for the film, four of which survive today. One pair is on display at the Smithsonian and another at Disney MGM studios. Another pair sold at a Christie's auction for $165,000, a testament to their collectable value.

As with any cultural icon, there is also controversy and mystery surrounding the shoes. In his book The Ruby Slippers of Oz, author Rhys Thomas theorizes that the Smithsonian pair may not be a matched set, suggesting that there is another mystery pair somewhere — over the rainbow? The ruby slippers are a Holy Grail for any Wizard of Oz collector, yet they are almost impossible for most to ever catch more than a short, glass-enclosed glimpse.

Jack Townsend is a memorabilia collector who decided to do something about that. Since the late 1970s, he has made a hobby of creating the perfect Wizard's gift — faithful reproductions of Dorothy's ruby slippers, accurate down to the last detail. He even signs Judy Garland's name inside and covers the bottoms with orange felt, just as costumers did in order to muffle Judy's footsteps on the Yellow Brick Road during filming.

Jack is charmingly pragmatic about the reactions people have to his hobby, "A lot of people might think I'm crazy - I'm eccentric, but I try to be eccentric with an air of dignity." Well, if the requests for his shoes are any indication, lots of people think he's just the sort of person who makes the world more interesting.

His shoes are on display at the Yellow Brick Road Museum in Indiana, the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, The Best of Kansas, and the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. He also donates his creations to various causes including AIDS charities, the Make a Wish Foundation, and the March of Dimes.

Jack was kind enough to loan us a pair. We can't promise you'll be transported anywhere, but you are welcome to take a closer look (just click the ruby slippers at the top of the page).