Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, better known as Agatha Christie, has been named one of the greatest mystery writers of all times and is affectionately known to all as the Queen of Crime. Born in England to an American stockbroker and the English daughter of a British army captain, the young Agatha grew up in the United Kingdom and penned her first novel (The Mysterious Affair at Styles) as a result of a challenge by her sister Madge. Although happily married to Colonel Archibald Christie at the time, events would foretell an even greater mystery involving her husband– this time a real-life mystery involving the strange disappearance of Mrs. Agatha Christie herself.
After only six years of marriage, Archibald Christie revealed to Agatha that he was having an affair and in love with another woman. The couple quarreled and both went their own directions to cool off – Archibald to Godalming to spend the weekend with his lover and Agatha to Yorkshire for a little vacation. At around 9:45 PM on December 8, 1926, after kissing her sleeping daughter Rosalind goodnight, Christie left a note to her secretary providing details of her trip and noting when she intended to return. Another note was written to Deputy Chief Constable of Surry Police in which Christie notified the deputy that she was fearful that something odd was afoot and she had concerns for her own safety. Her abandoned Morris Cowley automobile was found the next morning, at the bottom of a long slope at Newlands Corner, with bags of clothing and identification scattered about. There was no sign of Mrs. Christie.
At the time, Christie was already well known having just finished her 6th novel which was selling very well. Her car was found only a few hundred yards from Silent Pool, a natural pond that had served as a setting in one of her books in which a young girl and her brother had inexplicably drowned. Police immediately dredged that pond looking for Christie’s body.
Taking into account the note she had left with the deputy, police put a 24 hour watch on her husband Archie and secretly had taps placed on his phone. Celebrated crime writers Dorothy L. Sayers (author of the Lord Peter Wimsey series) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes) were called to assist in the search. Conan Doyle, who held great interest in the occult, took a discarded glove of Christie’s to a medium, while Sayers visited the scene of the disappearance in person (a location that she would later use in her novel, the Unnatural Death). Newspapers offered rewards for information and for the first time in history, airplanes were brought in to assist with the search.
11 days later, police received a call from guests at the Hydropathic Hotel, a spa located in Harrowgate, claiming a woman that bore a striking resemblance to Christie was staying at the spa. Police rushed her husband, Archie, to the hotel where he identified the mysterious resident as his wife. Agatha could not recall how she had come to arrive at the hotel nor how long she had been staying there. Her response when Archie arrived – “Fancy, my brother has just arrived.” Guests recalled questioning the woman about her identity and that she had simply laughed them off when it was suggested that she was the famous author. Police noted that Christie had been registered at the hotel under the name Teresa Neele which ironically, was the same surname as the mistress her husband had been having an affair with.
No resolution has ever surfaced for this mystery and if Christie indeed did know what had happened during her 11-day disappearance, she never divulged the secret to the public – not even in her later autobiographical account of her life. Police surmised that Christie had suffered a case of amnesia or “fuge state”, brought on by stress related to her husband’s affair and the recent death of her mother (who had died earlier in the year). Others claim that the disappearance was a publicity stunt, an effort to sell her books. Nobody could deny that her disappearance bore all the same characteristics of a good Agatha Christie novel. Some even claim that the disappearance was an effort to embarrass her husband, and was to be followed later with an attempt to pin her murder on him.
Agatha went on to remarry an established archaeologist. Many of her subsequent novels were written while on archaeological digs. Agatha Christie died in 1976. Her disappearance remains a mystery.