The 11 Day Mystery of Agatha Christie’s Disappearance
Did you know that on the evening of Friday 3rd December 1926, Agatha Christie left her Berkshire home, and drove off into the night. She wasn’t seen again for 11 days. During the time of Agatha Christie’s disappearance a huge media campaign and widespread search was conducted for her.
The Prologue to the Vanishing Act
Agatha Christie’s writing career was just starting to take off. Her sixth novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, was released in June 1926 to critical acclaim. Launched into the limelight, it seemed her literary talents were finally earning her due recognition.
However, all was not well in other areas of her life. Christie’s marriage to husband Archie was floundering at the hands of his infidelity and philandering. When Christie’s beloved mother became seriously ill earlier in 1926, Archie was away in Spain.
On learning of his mother-in-law’s impending death, he promptly traveled to London, leaving Christie to deal with the bereavement alone, citing that he “hated illness, death and trouble“.
In the aftermath of the death Archie declared his love for his mistress, Nancy Neele, and demanded a divorce from a grieving Christie. On the day of the writer’s disappearance, the couple argued over Archie’s plans to spend the weekend in Surrey with Neele.
So, we have a complex love triangle, a marriage on the rocks and a vanished wife.
It’s all beginning to read like the plot of a mystery novel!
The Plot Thickens
On December 4th a note was found addressed to Christie’s secretary, saying that she had gone to Yorkshire. However police soon discovered her car abandoned over an embankment near her home. The hood was up and the lights were still on. Inside the car was her coat, a bag of clothes and an expired driving license. There was no other trace of Christie.
Police launched an extensive search with over 1,000 officers and 15,000 members of the public scouring the countryside for any sign of her. The story became a tabloid sensation and as more details of Christie’s troubled private life emerged, the lurid speculation spun out of control.
11 days after Agatha Christie’s disappearance, she was found alive and well in a spa resort in Harrogate. It was an anticlimactic resolution to a bizarre situation.
The exact circumstances surrounding the disappearance were never revealed. Christie rarely spoke about the missing days. The only explanation came from her husband, who claimed that the author suffered a mental breakdown as a result of stress, and had no memory or recollection of her identity during the 11 days.
There are a number of theories about what caused the disappearance.
A fugue state is a psychogenic trance brought on by severe stress, trauma and depression. This would support Archie’s claim that his wife had no memory of who she was during the 11 days. However, although well documented, fugue states are extremely rare
Cynics speculated the disappearance was a rouse to increase Christie’s literary profile. Perhaps in an attempt to drive sales of a recently released book. This was plausible but unlikely, given that Christie had already become a household name and her new book was performing well before she vanished.
Hell Hath No Fury
Could Christie have plotted her disappearance out of spite to embarrass and punish her husband? It seems no small coincidence that she used Neele, the same surname as her husband’s lover, when checking into the hotel. Police and reporters leaned towards this theory, surmising that Christie’s claims of amnesia contained a few irregularities.
With Christie taking her secret to the grave, we will never know exactly why she vanished. One thing is certain though, the truth is often stranger than fiction.
Aileen spent 4 years living on coffee and noodles to earn her degree in English before turning to writing as her full time occupation. She works mainly as a copywriter and ghostwriter and is also a regular contributor to a number of online media magazines and writing journals.
When she’s not working, Aileen can be found weeping over the fifth draft of her novel, listening to murder podcasts or beating somebody at Scrabble or Boggle.
Latest posts by Aileen S (see all)
- Bizarre Objects Found In People’s Stomachs - April 15, 2017
- Agatha Christie’s Disappearance: An Unsolved Mystery - March 15, 2017
- Killer Food to Keep Off the Dinner Table - January 7, 2017