Agatha Christie is the author of more than 75 novels, numerous short stories and the longest running play in the world, that only stopped running because of the COVID-19 pandemic when it was forced to close in March 2020 after running since October 1956.
More intriguing than any of her mysteries is the true story of the disappearance of Dame Agatha Christie herself! In 1926 Agatha Christie disappeared for two weeks and had the whole world looking for her, particularly the people of England.
Agatha Christie's childhood and youth
Agatha Christie was born September 15, 1890 to an American father, Frederick Miller, and Clara Miller. Agatha was the youngest of three children. When Agatha was 11 and they were in France, her father died from a series of heart attacks. Clara was distraught and Agatha became her constant companion. Clara’s health was declining so Clara and Agatha took off for Egypt in 1910 where they spent 3 months in Cairo.
In 1912 Agatha met Archie Christie an aviator who was trying to join the Royal Flying Corps. They were married on Christmas Eve in 1914, and on the 27th Archie returned to France to fight in World War I. Agatha was working in the Red Cross Hospital in her hometown of Torquay. Agatha took the examination of Society of Apothecaries and became licensed to dispense drugs. It is from here that she learned all her knowledge of poisons.
Clara died in 1926 and Agatha was devastated. There were rumors that she had gone to a resort in Biarritz to recover. On her return in August, Archibald had asked Agatha for a divorce. He had fallen in love with Nancy Neele. On December 3 Archibald and Agatha had an argument and Archibald left saying he was going to go stay with friends. Agatha left on her own moonlit drive.
Agatha left her home on Friday, December 3 for a moonlit drive. She told her secretary, Carlo that she would call him on Saturday but did not tell him where she was going. On Saturday, her car was found by a country boy where it overhung a cliff at Newlands Corner. There were no traces of Agatha. She had left her fur coat, a suitcase with some clothing and briefcase with unimportant papers in the car. Her husband, Colonel Archibald Christie went to London to get Scotland Yard on the search.
Col. Christie told the press, “My wife did not tell me that she was leaving home on Friday night. She had not been in the habit of taking night rides alone in her automobile. The only explanation I can give is that she is suffering from loss of memory. My wife had a serious nervous breakdown last Spring and had recuperated in Paris.”
Agatha’s literary agents said that she had spoken to them on Thursday and seemed to be in good health. She told them that she hoped to get caught up since she was behind from her breakdown earlier in the year.
Physicians surmise that Agatha was depressed because of the death of her mother, her fear that she was losing her inspiration for her novels, and because she had been left alone too long in her home Sunningdale. One of her friends reported that she had said, “Unless I can get away from Sunningdale it will be the end.”
Agatha Clarisse Christie still missing for more than a week. Thousands of people are searching for her, over 15,000 civilians and 100 policemen. The Volunteers consisting of bicyclers, motorists, and hikers, many of the hikers had bloodhounds.
Police consult Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who in addition to authoring the Sherlock Holmes novels was also a physician. No comment from Doyle was made public, although it was said that he gave one of her gloves to a psychic so that she could find Agatha. It was also announced that Agatha had written a letter to her husband before her departure that the police had.
Agatha Christie is found on December 14, 1926. She was found in Harrogate in a hydropathic hotel registered under the name of Mrs. Theresa Neele of Cape Town, South Africa.
Col. Christie again spoke to the press, “There is no question about her identity. She is my wife, but she has suffered a complete loss of memory, and I do not think she knows who she is. She does not know me and she does not know where she is. I am hoping that rest and quiet will restore her. I expect to take her to London tomorrow to see her doctors and specialists. ”
The hotel management said that she was a popular guest. While in Harrogate she sang, danced and played billiards. Some of the other guests that had become acquainted with her said she had been around town and seemed perfectly normal.
The manager of the hotel described the first meeting between Col. Christie and Agatha as pathetic. The colonel was sitting in the lobby watching the arrival of guests when he saw his wife arrive. Agatha took a flyer containing her picture and the details of the searches for her. He approached her and witnesses say she said, “Hello Archibald, how are you.”
Although others said she didn’t recognize him. They went to the dining room where they had dinner and conversation. A maid in the hotel that recognized Agatha from the pictures that were circulating. She contacted hotel management who called the police.
Agatha left with her sister to return to her sister’s home, Abney Hall in Cheadle. There she was examined by Dr. Donald Core and Dr. Henry Wilson.
They issued a news bulletin, “After a careful examination of Mrs. Agatha Christie this afternoon, we have formed the opinion that she is suffering from an unquestionably genuine loss of memory, and that for her future welfare she should be spared all anxiety and excitement.” Colonel Christie told the press that she would probably stay at Abney Hall for a few months.
Two musicians from the hotel where Agatha was found received silver cigarette cases with a note thanking them and signed A. Christie. Agatha with her daughter and her secretary sailed to Las Palmas, Canary Islands where she recovered for three months. On her return Agatha filed for divorce. Agatha’s divorce from Archibald was final in October 1928. Archibald married Nancy Neele a week after the divorce was final.
The public was up in arms! It made no sense to most people that Agatha would leave her car in the middle of the night to travel almost 170 miles to Harrogate, check into a hotel under the name of her husband’s mistress and conduct a social life.
It was especially thought to be something other than memory loss when Archie spoke to the press. “I never called for the assistance of the press or the police. I suppose the police were only doing their duty; although I think they must have been egged on by the newspaper headlines. I never wanted them to search for my wife on such a big scale for I had no doubt she was suffering from loss of memory.”
Regardless, it remains a mystery. Years later Agatha wrote her autobiography and nothing at all was mentioned by her at all. The Queen of Mystery remains the Queen in both fiction and fact.