Ironic situations are one of the most gripping parts of any detective story. One of these occurred in real life in December 1926, when popular mystery writer, Agatha Christie, disappeared under suspicious circumstances. The author wrote a note stating that she was going on vacation and drove away from her home in Berkshire, England. Shortly after, her vehicle was found at the edge of a quarry nearby with the lights on and the hood up. Even more suspicious was the fact that her driver’s license, fur coat and a bag of clothes had been left in the car, leading the police to suspect foul play.
After the public learned about her disappearance, authorities combed the area searching for Christie, dead or alive, with more than 15,000 volunteers. For the first time in history a fleet of planes was used to help search for a missing person, and the lakes and streams were dredged. Fellow author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, even took one of her gloves to a psychic who was employed to tap into the spirit world for assistance in finding Christie.
When this extensive search yielded no results, the police assumed that the author had been murdered and began looking for possible suspects. Her husband became the main one as the couple was currently experiencing marital problems, because of his involvement with a younger woman, Nancy Neele. There had been a major argument about Colonel Christie’s indiscretion, before his wife’s disappearance, and many felt that he had gotten rid of her to freely date his mistress.
On December 14, 1926, eleven days after her disappearance, Agatha Christie was spotted by a local musician enjoying the spa facilities at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate. The author had checked in shortly before as a woman on vacation from Cape Town, under the name Theresa Neele (the surname of her husband’s mistress).
The public had mixed reactions to the author reappearing alive and well. Many people were angry believing that she had planned the entire incident as a publicity stunt to promote her latest novel. Others believed that she had attempted to frame her husband and his mistress for murder, or had simply disappeared as an act of revenge. The author herself spoke briefly of the incident, mentioning that she had awakened from a temporary dream state where she believed that she was a South African on vacation.
After this announcement, Christie avoided the topic of her disappearance, refusing to speak about it in interviews and completely excluding it from her autobiography. The author’s prolonged silence means that the mystery of whether Agatha had been taken over by an alter ego, or just ran away from an adulterous husband, remains. There is also the very real possibility that the author got so involved in her stories that reality and fiction temporarily merged into one.