Agatha Christie Disappeared? The Infamous Mystery Case

Agatha Christie Disappeared? The Infamous Mystery Case 

It was after dinner one late night in early December when a 36-year old homemaker kissed her daughter goodnight and then went out for a drive along the rural roads of Berkshire, England. What followed, was at the time, one of the largest manhunts there had ever been in England’s history. Involving over 1,000 police officers, 15,000 volunteers, search and rescue dogs, and aerial searchers. You see, the lady who went missing? Her name was Agatha Christie.

Yes, THAT Agatha Christie. The one who wrote some of the beloved classic mysteries we all know and love like Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, and Endless Night. She disappeared for eleven days in December of 1926, reappearing at a spa in Yorkshire some 500 km (roughly 310 miles) away from where she went missing —and where her car was found.

Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous creator of Sherlock Holmes, became involved in the search for Agatha Christie. Going so far as to hire a psychic to hunt down his fellow mystery writer. 

There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered about those eleven missing days in Agatha Christie’s life. She makes no mention of them in her autobiography, and in interviews after her disappearance, she said very little, just an offhanded comments here and there. So, we’ll tell you the two main theories, with facts, about what might have happened to make Agatha Christie disappear and let you decide; Did Agatha Christie fake her disappearance to frame her husband for murder? Or did she suffer an accident and develop a case of amnesia, something straight out of one of her novels? 

Here are the facts followed by the two most prevalent theories– And you decide which one is the truth. 

Agatha Christie Disappeared? A stack of Agatha Christie books by the title of this post.

The Facts: Agatha Christie Disappeared

At the start of 1926, Agatha Christie was already an internationally famous writer when she mysteriously disappeared in December 1926. She had just released her sixth novel, she had been married to Colonial Archibald “Archie” Christie for twelve years, and had given birth to her one and only child, Rosalind Margaret Clarissa. 

Her life seemed to be full, filled with travel, adventure, and financial stability. The Christies even bought a beautiful twelve-bedroom house in rural Berkshire. But in April of 1926, that happy veneer shattered with the death of Agatha’s mother. 

Now, all was not well in the Christie household. After the death of her beloved mother Agatha fell into a deep depression, further aggravated when she was hit with another blow in August of 1926. Her husband Archie Christie had fallen in love with a much younger woman he’d met curtesy friend of his from the military. Her name was Nancy Neele, and he wanted a divorce from Agatha because of it.

On December 3, 1926, Agatha and Archie Christie were reported to have had a heated argument over Archie wanting to go away for a weekend with friends–including his Nancy Neele–and Agatha wasn’t invited. When Archie left to go on his weekend trip, Agatha Christie kissed her daughter Rosalind goodnight, packed some clothes got into her car, and drove into the night. Beginning eleven days of mystery and one of England’s largest manhunts. 

The next morning after her disappearance, December 4, 1926, Agatha Christie’s car (A Morris Cowley Bullnose) was found at Newlands Corner in Surrey, abandoned. It had been crashed into a hedge with its front wheels dangling over a chalk quarry. It had a driving license and some clothes inside on the front seat.

Agatha was nowhere to be found.

However, there were three important discoveries made. Agatha Christie had left three letters behind! One to her home secretary, one to her brother-in-law, and the last to her husband, and according to the New York Times, Archie BURNED his letter and refused to disclose what she had written in it to the police. Campbell Christie (the brother-in-law) also burned his letter. The most significant one she left was to her secretary, it said she (Agatha) needed to get away and just couldn’t stay there anymore.

But the Police were not convinced. They still suspected foul play or that she may have taken her own life. So they searched. They brought in bloodhounds to search nearby fields, and they dredged the local ponds nearby, twice!

But all to no avail. 

With pressure from the press mounting Archie was under increasing scrutiny. So he went to the press with the idea that his wife may be staging her own disappearance to work out the true logistics of a new murder mystery or as a publicity stunt. Speculating that she may be using a disguise.

But rather than relieve the pressure on him, his story amplified it globally and increased the nationwide search. The story even made it to the front page of the New York Times. 

“It is ridiculous,” Agatha’s secretary told The New York Times, “Mrs. Christie is quite too much a lady for that.”

By now Agatha Christie’s face was plastered over every newspaper around the globe. So how had no one seen her? How could she be hiding in plain sight? 

Agatha Christie did it by using her talents. 

On December 4, 1926, the day after she went “missing”, Agatha checked into the  Swan Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire under the name “Mrs Teresa Neele” (noticed the cheeky nod to her husband’s lover’s last name) from South Africa, a place full of happy memories for Agatha. 

Agatha spent the 11 days she was “missing” at the hotel enjoying spas, playing games, going shopping, and dancing. Employees of the hotel started to get suspicious the more they looked at her picture in the newspaper, until finally one of them went to the police. 

On December 14th, Archie and the police came to see Agatha, but she didn’t seem to recognize Archie. She looked blankly at him. Various reports from guests at the resort reported that when Archie approached her she truly looked like she had no clue who he was. 

Archie later told the press My wife’s memory is completely gone, and three years have dropped out of her life, she recognizes me but does not recall our child Rosalind. It is a terrible tragedy.

Agatha Christie herself only talked about her disappearance once (to the press), right before her divorce from Archie. She did an interview with the Daily Mail, and most believe she did this because she feared losing custody of her daughter. In the interview, Agatha said she honestly didn’t remember how she came to be at the hotel, just that she truly believed herself to be newly arrived from South Africa and full of hope and that she still didn’t remember much from right before the eleven days she was missing. 

Thus, the nationwide manhunt came to a close, and yet the media frenzy continues even to this day. Everyone is completely compelled by Agatha Christie’s eleven-day disappearance to know what happened during the eleven days she went “missing”.

Was He Framed?

The theory of Agatha Christie’s husband having something to do with her disappearance appeared quickly. It was brought on by the fact that there had been a heated argument by the pair the day Agatha went missing and further substantiated when Agatha’s car was found crashed and abandoned at a quarry with no trace of her anywhere. It screams foul play to any mystery lover, and who better to look at than a husband on the cusp of divorce? It truly reads like the perfect set up to a murder mystery.

To try and throw suspicion off of himself Archie suggested that Agatha might truly have gone missing for research purposes since she had mentioned it as an idea in the past. However, Archie didn’t help himself look less guilty when he burned the letter Agatha had left him before he had shown it to the police. It just made him look like he had something to hide. The newspapers also reported that Archie originally tried to hide his relationship with the young woman, Ms. Nancy Neele.

As the saying goes, there are two sides to every story and it is certainly true with this one. 

At the time of Agatha Christie’s disappearance, international newspapers featured the disappearance, including ones from the United States like the New York Times. 

Many newspaper’s spin on the story though was interesting. Some inferred that Agatha Christie may have been trying to frame her husband for her disappearance, something straight out of one of her novels! They suggested that she was trying to capture the true essence of a missing persons case, what the police would truly do if someone were to go missing, the steps they would take to find said person, and how the public would react. Basically a media stunt to broaden her audience.

They also suggested that Archie and his lover wanted to get Agatha out of the way, like any classic lovers’ revenge plot, and sought to do it in a way that didn’t implicate them.

But we all know the news is great at getting clickbait so…I took what they wrote with a grain of salt.

Was it a mental breakdown?

We didn’t know as much in 1926 about mental health as we do today, and often when people were struggling with mental health problems they were largely ignored back then. So when a woman who writes mysteries says that she’s in pain, she wants to leave this life, she just wants out, it was automatically assumed she was being dramatic. 

All the public saw was this out-of-the-norm woman who had a career (when many women never even left the house), one who had a lovely home, and a woman who was highly looked up to. But looking back now, many psychologists believe that Agatha Christie may have been suffering from what’s known today as a severe depression and it climaxed with a condition known as a fugue state. It’s rare, but the symptoms are eerily similar to what Agatha Christie described as experiencing. People wake up in a new place with no memory of how they got there, they often disassociate from their real lives taking on new identities and in some cases entirely new personalities. 

Agatha Christie’s memory loss seemed to never completely recover. However, after her divorce (in which she kept the surname of her husband) she eventually married her second husband an Archeologist, Sir Max Mallowan, and remained with him for the rest of her life. She went on to write many more iconic characters in her Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mystery series. Never suffering (at least in public) from such a bad episode of depression again. 

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