On a chilly December night in 1926, infamous "Queen of Crime" Agatha Christie left her home in Berkshire, England to go for a drive. The next morning, a teenage boy discovered her car, abandoned along the shore of "Silent Pool," a lake several miles from her home. Police thoroughly searched the area, but Agatha herself was nowhere to be found.
For days, thousands of fans from England and Europe searched tirelessly for the missing author. Some sources even cite Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, best-known for his "Sherlock Holmes" novels, as joining in the search for Agatha. AlteredDimensions.net claims that the famous detective novelist took one of Mrs. Christie's gloves to a psychic medium. Dorothy Sayers, another famous crime novelist, also took part in the search, and later even used the lake scene in a book.
As the news spread throughout Europe and across the Atlantic, speculation about the circumstances surrounding Mrs Christie's disappearance ran wild. Many people were convinced that her husband, Colonel Archibald "Archie" Christie, had killed her. Still others believed that the notoriously depressed writer had killed herself in a fit of despair.
A few, including Mr. Christie himself, thought it very likely that Agatha herself had engineered her own disappearance. During the investigation, he made several comments to the press, and one source even quotes him as saying, “My wife said to me, some time ago, that she could disappear at will and would defy anyone to find her. This shows that the possibility of engineering her disappearance was running through her mind.”
Though he was widely criticized for his commentary, most people believed that Archie Christie was simply blowing off steam. Immediately following Agatha's disappearance, police had placed Mr. Christie under constant surveillance, believing - just as in one of his wife's "who-dunit" novels - the husband was the most likely suspect. Archie believed that not only did his wife choose to disappear, she did it for revenge.
But why would Agatha seek vengeance against her own husband? By most accounts, they had been happily married for twelve years. They had a daughter, Rosalind, and were often seen enjoying a round of golf together near their Berkshire home, "Styles House." However, as authorities delved deeper into the Christie's married life, it became apparent that all was not well.
In the summer of 1926, Agatha's mother, Clara, passed away. Archie Christie, who in Agatha's own words could not deal with "death, illness or trouble," was unsympathetic. Rather than stay and help Agatha with arrangements, he opted to go to London and leave his bereaved wife to deal with her mother's affairs on her own.
A short time later, Archie revealed to his wife that he'd been having an affair. He told her that he'd fallen in love with his mistress, Nancy Neele, and planned to marry her. He demanded a divorce, but Agatha, who did not believe in divorce, refused. Mr. Christie admitted to police that he and his wife had an argument regarding Miss Neele the day before the disappearance, but he insisted that he had no knowledge of her whereabouts.The entire situation was beginning to feel eerily similar to one of Agatha's mystery novels, but the biggest twist was yet to come.
Eleven days after Agatha's abandoned car was discovered, a banjo player named Bob Tappin contacted police, claiming that a woman had checked into the Old Swan Hotel in Harrowgate, Yorkshire, some days before, and that the lady bore a striking resemblance to the missing Mrs. Christie. Police quickly descended upon the hotel, bringing along Archie Christie to identify his wife. When they arrived, they discovered Agatha, who claimed to have no knowledge of who she was nor how she arrived at the hotel. Several doctors examined the confused lady, finally settling on a diagnosis of temporary amnesia.
When news of Agatha's whereabouts reached the press, it began a media frenzy. The press flocked to the Old Swan Hotel. Everyone wanted to know why Agatha had run away? And why did she not come forward when the entire world thought she'd vanished? If she was suffering from amnesia, why did she check into the hotel under the name "Teresa Neele," using the surname of her husband's mistress?
The real mystery is that Agatha Christie never explained her actions, and in fact, continued to insist that she had no memory of the incident, even years later. Is it possible that she really had suffered amnesia, as she claimed? A new book by Jared Cade offers evidence to the contrary.
In his book, "Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days," Cade claims that Agatha's sister readily admitted that she had allowed Agatha to stay with her in Chelsea on the same evening her car was discovered miles away in Newland's Corner, and in fact, that she knew of Agatha's intention to disappear all along. This, coupled with the fact that Agatha had written several letters stating she was "off to Yorkshire" shortly before disappearing, leads many to believe that she planned her disappearance ahead of time. Premeditation would make the amnesia explanation impossible. Still, Agatha continued to assert that she had no memory of the events surrounding her disappearance.
Her fans were not at all satisfied with this explanation. Some even thought that Agatha planned the entire incident as a publicity stunt to promote her novels. This theory actually does hold some weight - 1926 was a big year for Agatha Christie. Her seventh novel, "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd," was on the best sellers' list, and had consequently catapulted her into literary stardom. What could better promote her career as one of the world's greatest mystery novelists than a chilling mystery involving the author herself?
Still, most believed that Agatha had suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of her husband's infidelity, and had simply gone away for some peace.
Regardless, Agatha continued to claim amnesia for the rest of her life, often joking about "walking around in a dream." In her autobiography, written many years later, Christie glosses over the incident as if it never happened. Many feel that her stubborn silence on the subject speaks volumes.
We may never know the true reason behind Agatha's actions, but perhaps her reasons for suddenly vanishing can be summed up by a quote from the author herself: "Dogs are wise," she wrote, "They crawl away into a quiet corner and lick their wounds and do not rejoin the world until they are whole once more."
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