Mysteries of the "Mystery" Author Agatha Christie's Disappearance in 1926
Mysteries of the “Mystery” Author Agatha Christie’s Disappearance in 1926

Mysteries of the “Mystery” Author Agatha Christie’s Disappearance in 1926

Shannon Quinn - November 26, 2018

Agatha Christie is best known for being one of the best mystery writers in history, but on December 3, 1926, she disappeared. For 11 days, the authorities could no longer find the mystery writer. Her car was abandoned on the side of the road and she was nowhere to be seen. The public feared the worst until 11 days later she appeared just as quickly as she disappeared. So where did Agatha Christie go and why did she leave?

Mysteries of the “Mystery” Author Agatha Christie’s Disappearance in 1926
Young Agatha Christie. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Agatha Christie Had Personal Family Issues Before She Disappeared

In 1926 Agatha Christie was 36 years old, and she was having issues with her husband Archie. That same year, her mother passed away, and she lost her emotional support system. Instead of comforting her, Archie left Agatha alone to grieve while he went on a business trip. Despite having a successful career in mystery writing, Agatha Christie was no longer happy with her life. In fact, making a lot of money only made her relationship worse, because Archie wanted to take some of her earnings, and Agatha did not want him to take the money she worked so hard for, especially when she knew he was unfaithful to their marriage.

Agatha Christie was right to not trust her husband, because he cheated on her behind her back with a woman named Nancy Neele. Agatha learned about the affair on December 3rd. They argued and he stormed out, saying he would go to live with his lover. She was in shock – and he left her alone in the house with their daughter. During this tumultuous time, she packed a suitcase and disappeared from her home in the middle of the night. Before she left, she kissed her sleeping daughter Rosalind goodbye, and told her maid that she would be back soon.

Mysteries of the “Mystery” Author Agatha Christie’s Disappearance in 1926
Agatha Christie and her daughter Rosalind. Credit: Pinterest

The next day, the police found her vehicle sitting on the side of the road, but Agatha was nowhere to be found. Her expensive fur coat, along with her driver’s license and a few pieces of clothing were left behind in the vehicle. The car was sitting at the bottom of a hill, as if someone had put the car in “drive” and jumped out, allowing it to coast down the slope until it came to a stop. There was no blood in the car, and no evidence to indicate where she had gone.

Keep in mind this was in 1926, so there was no option for her to call an Uber or to flag down someone to help her on the side of the road. It would have been pitch black and, for a woman all alone, it would not have been a safe environment for her to find shelter. Authorities feared the worst, and they believed that she could have been murdered or kidnapped. Considering that she disappeared on the moment her husband announced his affair, he became the prime suspect.

After she disappeared, Archie Christie was ordered to return to his home for police questioning. There was a letter sitting on the kitchen table addressed to him from Agatha. The maids witnessed him reading the letter before tossing it into the fireplace. This made him look even more suspicious.

Mysteries of the “Mystery” Author Agatha Christie’s Disappearance in 1926
Agatha Christie’s photo was on the front cover of nearly every newspaper. Credit: Getty Images

Hundreds of People Began Searching For The Author

Newspapers all over the world, including the New York Times, reported a front-page story about Agatha Christie’s disappearance. Her face was printed on missing posters all over the London. Hundreds of police officers from various jurisdictions pooled their resources together to find the celebrity author.

At this point in her career, Agatha Christie had already published six mystery novels, so she was well known in the community of English writers. When other mystery writers heard that she was gone, they took it upon themselves to try to figure out where she went. The clues in her car seemed to have been left on purpose, as if she was acting like one of the characters in her books. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the famous Sherlock Holmes series decided to take a crack at the the case of the missing author.

Mysteries of the “Mystery” Author Agatha Christie’s Disappearance in 1926
Agatha Christie’s abandoned car, and the police. Credit: New York TImes

Arthur Conan Doyle sometimes dabbled in the occult, so he thought that maybe he could reach out to the supernatural powers to find out where Christie had gone. He took a glove from her car, and took it to a psychic medium to ask if they could find the location of her body. Obviously, the medium could not give him any information to help solve the case. Another writer named Dorothy L. Sayers also visited the scene of the crime and she ended up using all of the information from the Agatha Christie case and published it in one of her own mystery novels called Unnatural Death.

Before disappearing, Agatha Christie told Archie that she was so good at writing mystery stories that she knew that if there was ever a time that she needed to disappear, she knew exactly how to accomplish that. He gave an interview to a newspaper, saying that this was her way of proving herself right. Some believe that this was a publicity stunt for her newest book. Others thought that she committed suicide. The police searched a pond near where her car was found, expecting to find a body.

Mysteries of the “Mystery” Author Agatha Christie’s Disappearance in 1926
Newspaper coverage when Agatha Christie was found. Credit: Getty Images

Agatha Christie Found Alive

Two hundred miles away from her home, Agatha Christie relaxed in an exclusive spa resort in the town of Harrogate. She checked in under the name “Teresa Neele” and claimed to be from South Africa. Using the last name of her husband’s lover was a nice touch. When she met other hotel guests, she claimed that her baby daughter had recently died, and that she was grieving. She also claimed to have some memory loss and confusion.

It is possible that Agatha Christie underestimated her fame, because a lot of people staying in he hotel recognized her as the author immediately, but they let it go, because lots of celebrities showed up at the hotel. They figured she wanted her privacy, and left her alone. She spent her vacation going out dancing, listening to live bands, reading mystery novels in the hotel library, and being pampered at the spa.

Mysteries of the “Mystery” Author Agatha Christie’s Disappearance in 1926
Archie and Agatha Christie lied to the press to keep their secret. Credit: Getty Images

Eleven days after her disappearance, the news about Agatha Christie had spread throughout all of England, and two guests at the hotel recognized her from the photos. They went to their local police station to report her whereabouts. When they confronted her, she claimed that she had no idea that so many people were searching for her. In fact, she seemed horrified, as if she had never expected this to happen.

When she finally returned, Agatha Christie was welcomed back to her hometown with open arms. She told the press that she had amnesia, and she has no idea how she ended up 200 miles away in a fancy hotel. (Better yet, how could she afford such a fancy vacation if she didn’t remember her real identity?) Her husband agreed, and told the same story to the press, as well.

For the rest of her life, she refused to talk about why she left during press interviews, or reveal any new information about what happened during the time she went missing. Some people believed this was all an elaborate publicity stunt for her new novel, while others thought it was a suicide attempt, and she changed her mind at the last minute. A psychologist writing for “The Guardian” suggested that Agatha Christie suffered a state of amnesia for those 11 days, and that she wandered in a fugue state.

However, it was discovered that this was, in fact, an elaborate ruse planned by Agatha – and Archie’s own sister, Nan, helped her pull it off. After pushing her car down the hill, Agatha Christie walked to the nearest train station in her country town, and met up with Nan in London. Nan gave her new clothes and supplies, and she went the rest of the way by train to the spa. All of this was an elaborate hoax orchestrated to punish her husband for cheating on her, which makes her go down in history as getting the best revenge ever.

While Archie tried to keep her down, Agatha kept on flourishing. In 1928, she divorced her husband and married an archaeologist named Max Mallowan who was much better for her, and they grew old together. After her stunt, it only made her a more successful author, and her next novel flew off the shelves. There are few mystery writers who can say that they became a mystery themselves, and it only makes Agatha Christie more of a legend than anyone may have imagined.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Christie’s Most Famous Mystery Solved at Last. Vanessa Thorpe. The Guardian. 2006.

Agatha Christie’s 1926 Disappearance. Patricia Daniels. Thought Co. 2017

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