Dame Agatha Christie was (and continues to be) one of the most popular mystery writers of all time. More than 30 feature films are based on her work, and the Guinness World Records lists Christie as the best-selling fiction writer of all time. Her novels have sold more than two billion copies. You know her, you love her… but did you know that she once mysteriously disappeared for eleven days? A disappearance that, to this day, remains without explanation?
But first here’s the answer to Wednesday’s riddle:
Penny has five children:
The 1st kid is named January.
The 2nd kid is named February.
The 3rd kid is named March.
The 4th kid is named April.
What is the name of the 5th kid.
Hope you could get it. We’ll be using quite a few riddles in our virtual escape room mystery that we’re currently beta testing… Stay tuned.
But back to normal programming. It’s time to chat about the Mysterious Disappearance of Agatha Christie...
That’s a dope ass hat
On December 4th, after renowned mystery author Agatha Christie kissed her daughter goodnight, she sped off into the night. Her car was discovered the following morning, hanging over the edge of a chalk quarry and empty, except for an expired driving license and some clothes. Reminding everyone of the beginning of one of her very own stories, Christie’s disappearance made headline news, appearing on the cover of the New York Times:
“The novelist’s car was found abandoned near Guildford on the edge of a chalk pit, the front wheels actually overhanging the edge… The car evidently had run away, and only a thick hedge-growth prevented it from plunging into the pit.”
More than 1000 police officers, 15,000 volunteers, 6 bloodhounds, and several airplanes scoured the country in an attempt to discover any trace of the writer… to no avail. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a staunch spiritualist, gave a spirit medium one of Christie's gloves to find her.
Three Mysterious Letters
After three days of zero clues, the police discovered the existence of three letters, all written by Christie:
The first was to her secretary. Its most significant passage was: “I must get away. I cannot stay here in Sunningdale much longer.”
The second letter was to Mrs. Christie’s brother-in-law at Woolwich. This letter has been destroyed.
The third letter was addressed to Colonel Christie himself (her husband) and was unposted. Colonel Christie refused to reveal its contents, stating that it was a personal note written evidently before his wife decided to go away.”
Now if that doesn’t make the brother-in-law or husband look shady in this case, I don’t know what does. Public rumors ranged from collaborative murder to affairs to suicide to a publicity stunt for her newest novel. The police even examined her soon to be released work, searching for clues!
Publicity stunt or amnesia? Or something more?
The final pieces of this mystery come together like the flashback scene of every mystery film…
It’s August, 1926, and Colonel Christie had asked Agatha for a divorce. He had apparently fallen in love with another woman, a Ms. Nancy Neele. And on December 3rd, the Colonel & Agatha had argued after he announced his plan to spend the weekend with friends, unaccompanied by his wife.
Eleven days after disappearing, Christie was discovered at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel, registered as a Mrs. Tressa NEELE. Upon her discovery, she left for her sister’s residence where she was sequestered “in a guarded hall, gates locked, telephone cut off, and callers turned away.”
Almost 100 years later, biographers and historians are still debating over what happened during that two week period. Christie’s autobiography makes no reference to the disappearance.
Two doctors diagnosed her as suffering from “an unquestionable genuine loss of memory.” And her husband informed reporters, saying, “She does not know who she is… she has suffered from the most complete loss of memory.” Public reaction was largely negative at the time, assuming a possible publicity stunt or an attempt to embarrass or frame her husband due to his leaving her.
It can’t be that simple, right?
A publicity stunt? A scorned wife? Is that all?
Or maybe it could be that the 1920s was an even more difficult time to be a woman and, therefore, the world wrote off Mrs. Christie’s disappearance as a simple case of amnesia when in fact she was going through intense trauma... Did the media blame Colonel Christie whatsoever? Nope. (GASP) Did Christie ever mention this period of time ever again? Yes actually- ONE time only. She said:
“That night I felt terribly miserable. I felt that I could go on no longer. I left home that night in a state of high nervous strain with the intention of doing something desperate…”
Perhaps, Agatha Christie just needed some time out of the public eye, away from the identity of the world’s greatest mystery writer… but perhaps we’ll never know.
Deep dives below, if you’re into that sort of thing.
-Andy & Mark
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