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Agatha Christie: The True Mystery

Updated on August 15, 2015

Agatha Christie's mysterious disappearance

I don't know about you but when someone mentions Agatha Christie to me, I tend to visualise a rather stout, grey-haired lady. That's because of the photograph that appeared on many of her book sleeves.

I find it easy to forget that Agatha was once a young woman and it was during her first marriage, that a mysterious disappearance took place. She disappeared for eleven days in 1926. There as a massive hue and cry. This mystery has never been solved but there have been many theories. I wonder if we can solve it? Read the bullet points below.

I'd love to hear your ideas.In short, she left her home on a December evening. Her car was later discovered - abandoned. Eleven days later, she was discovered alive and well in a somewhat upper-class hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire.What was the story behind this mysterious disappearance?


The Swan Hotel

The story immediately broke in the press. Agatha had six novels published by this time and was well on her way to fame. The photograph on the left is the hotel where she was finally discovered after an intensive and exhaustive manhunt.

What the press didn't know was that her husband, Archie, had recently told her about his long-time mistress and that he was seeking a divorce. To me, this gives us an excellent clue about the disappearance.Agatha's mother, to whom she was very close, had always advised against the marriage but to add insult to injury, the mother had died earlier in the year of the disappearance.

This had been another cross Agatha had been forced to bear during 1926.

Points to consider

  • Agatha had gone upstairs to kiss her sleeping daughter, then driven away from her home telling no-one where she was going. The alarm was raised the following day when her abandoned car was found in a remote spot. There was her ID in the car, plus a fur coat but no sign of Agatha. She made sure that there was no mistake about who the vehicle belonged to.
  • Note that she had left her fur coat in the car. This was in December. Somehow, coatless, she made her way from remote countryside location to railway station where she caught a train to London and then to Harrogate. Did she have an accomplice or a highly-paid driver? (Highly paid so that he or she would keep quiet).
  • Her husband's mistress was called Nancy Neele. Mrs Christie booked into the Harrogate hotel as 'Theresa Neele'. What was her motive for this? Did she make the reservation in advance? Having lived in Harrogate (much later than 1926!) I think she must have. The Swan was THE hotel in the town and reservations must have been required, especially approaching the Christmas period.
  • Harrogate was a spa town and a feature was its healing sulphur baths. In 1922, Archie and Agatha had been on a tour of the Commonwealth countries as part of a goodwill mission. In Honolulu, Agatha had developed a painful arm and shoulder thanks to her frequent habit of surfing. For the next month she suffered considerable pain. On the next leg of the tour, in Banff (Canada) she was completed cured at the sulphur springs there. Isn't it conceivable that she went to Harrogate for similar reason?
  • Some commentators at the time suggested that it was unlike Agatha to leave her child, adding that this was an additional factor to support the theory of a nervous breakdown or mental incapacity of some sort. Yet when she and Archie had been on the world tour in 1922, they had been separated from their daughter for eleven months. Plus, the Christies were well-off and had staff, in addition to great support from their extended families.
  • Once she had been found, she was accused of creating a publicity stunt by affecting her disappearance. Yet all her family and friends said that, incredibly creative and inventive as she was,she wouldn't have known where to begin creating publicity campaign. Furthermore, it wasn't needed - her books were selling very well indeed.
  • After her discovery at the Harrogate hotel, her husband told the press that she knew nothing of the incident because she was suffering from amnesia due to crashing her car. Yet I have seen photographs of her car after the police discovered it. It wasn't crashed, merely abandoned. I can't truly believe that a woman injured in a car accident can make her way to London (in cold December) and then to Harrogate and then behave perfectly normally during her stay there. She must have arrived at the hotel well-groomed or someone would have noticed. And despite the hue and cry, and wide newspaper reports, no-one had seen a dishevelled woman on the train to London or to Harrogate.
  • On the day after her disappearance, she wrote a letter to her brother-in-law (Archie's brother, significantly) saying that she was taking a break for a week or two and going to a spa in Yorkshire. He reported this to the police but it was ignored. Why would she do this? Why did the police ignore this information? I believe that for some time, they suspected that Archie had killed his wife.

My own theory

I believe that this was a completely planned and premeditated disappearance. I think that the whole business was a calculated attempt (which succeeded) to expose her husband's infidelity.

Some people have theorised that the fact that she booked into the hotel using the mistress' surname shows that she was 'confused and depressed' about the situation.

No, I think it was perfectly deliberate and a way to expose her name to the public.Agatha had plenty of money with her which allowed her to live in luxury at the Harrogate hotel. This again shows premeditation.

Once you start to look at the situation from the premeditated point of view, then you can see the analytical Christie mind - the mind that developed the superb mystery novels - at work.

A fictional account?

But highly entertaining! See the video below

© 2014 Jackie Jackson

Let's have your theory!

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    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 3 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      I tend to agree with you. And it isn't really surprising that she disappeared in a mysterious way - after all, she did write mysteries. It seems a likely thing to do, for a mystery writer.

    • profile image

      angliterario 3 years ago

      I never knew about her disappearance until they made an episode of it in Dr. Who. The arguments you presented seemed logical and simple enough. As Mr. Holmes would put it, Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 3 years ago

      Well, it was either one thing or it was something else. And then are are a few other possibilities.

    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 3 years ago from Orange County, California

      I have long been an Agatha Christie fan and I had heard about her mysterious disappearance. I love your explanation! It's as good as any!

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Brite-Ideas: Thank you! She was certainly a very clever woman and perfectly capable of creating a good plot - in real life as well as in her books.

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Merrci: Isn't it wonderful that she created her own mystery? I suspect it was entirely planned as a vengeance against her husband. The police DID suspect him of her murder for a while. She might have been up to something even more but her discovery prevented her going through with it - whatever it was :)

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      oh wow, this was interesting! of course I had no idea - I think your theory makes a lot of sense, it really does - an indirect way to expose him! and a good way in that it drew in everyone's attention of course - your scandal pieces are interesting!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Well that was fun! I think I agree with you. It definitely sounds premeditated. I might wonder if it was meant to get her husband in trouble, to make everyone wonder if he had killed her. The fact that she offered no real explanation makes it seem premeditated as well. More fun speculation! Who doesn't love a good mystery.