Where Did Agatha Christie Go Missing in 1926?
It’s perhaps the greatest mystery that Agatha Christie ever left us, and that’s saying a lot!
Still the best selling novelist of all time, Agatha Christie gave us 66 detective novels and an additional 14 short stories, and also found time to pen The Mousetrap, which is now the longest-running play in the world. In December of 1926, she was already a household name with a shining professional career stretching in front of her… and then she vanished.
The Night of The Disappearance
Between 9.30 and 9.45pm on Friday 3rd December 1926, Agatha Christie left her home in Sunningdale – apparently after putting her young daughter to bed – and set out on a journey.
She got into her car, a Morris Crawley, and drove towards Surrey. Somewhere en route, she left her car at Newlands Corner, somewhat precariously perched on the top of a steep chalk quarry slope, and left her fur coat and (expired) driving licence within the vehicle.
But Christie herself was nowhere to be seen.
The Aftermath and the Search
Her disappearance triggered a huge manhunt, including the first-ever use of aeroplanes in such a case! The aforementioned car was quickly located by police, but Christie wasn’t.
There was no sign of an accident, her rising stardom made suicide seem an unlikely theory, and no body was found (despite the lurking proximity of the Silent Pool, a known landmark where two children had reportedly drowned).
Rumours of publicity stunt abounded. Suggestions that her husband (known to have a mistress) had murdered her arose. The news reached the New York Times. Even Arthur Conan Doyle took an involvement, unsuccessfully exercising his fascination with occultism to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. But not even the mind behind Sherlock Holmes could crack the case…
…until Agatha Christie was found in a Harrogate Hotel on 14th December!
The Reappearance and What Happened
Somewhere between disappearing and reappearing, the missing author had checked into the now Old Swan Hotel with next to no luggage, using the name of her husband’s mistress, Theresa Neele. Christie was safe and rather enjoying the entertainment at the hotel, and in no hurry to leave, even when her husband arrived to take her home.
She was also unable to remember a thing, struggling to recognise her husband of 12 years.
So, what on earth happened? There are numerous theories:
- Her husband claimed concussion from the car crash had robbed her of her memory. Two doctors corroborated this diagnosis.
- Biographer Andrew Norman cites psychogenic amnesia. Agatha Christie, he believes, was suicidal, and this trauma brought on this puzzling behaviour. Given the death of her mother and her marital troubles, this certainly seems plausible.
- Writer Andrew Wilson also supposed Christie’s suicidal intentions, but hypothesised that her Christian faith left her feeling so ashamed of this “sin” that she constructed the idea of memory loss to hide the fact that she’d actually attempted to take her life.
- Many claimed it was a publicity stunt to further grow her fame.
Whatever the case, Christie made no mention of the 11-day disappearance in her posthumous autobiography of 1977. In an almost poetic twist, the most popular author of detective fiction left a real-life mystery behind her, which will remain, in all probability, unsolved!
Middle Ground Theatre Group Ltd’s production of Agatha Christie’s classic A Murder is Announced is ongoing at Blackpool Grand Theatre, so be sure to book your tickets before the show finishes on 30th November, and keep an eye on our upcoming events and shows.