The following is reprinted from The Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.
The biggest mystery by Agatha Christie may turn out to be her own unexplained disappearance. Here's the story of how the best-selling "Queen of Crime" author may have set up her own murder to frame her cheating husband ...
Agatha Christie started writing detective stories to show up her sister, Madge. They were discussing Sherlock Holmes one day, when Agatha said she'd like to try her hand at writing one. "I don't think you could do it," said Madge. "They are very difficult to do. I've thought about it." Since then, Christie has become one of the most popular detective science fiction writers of all time, selling over 2 billion copies of her books in 104 languages.
Still, one of the most sensational and mysterious events in her life was her own 11-day disappearance in December 1926. Although her defender believe Agatha was suffering from some kind of amnesia, all available evidence suggest that she used her expertise as a mystery writer to set her husband as the prime suspect in a murder case - with herself as the supposed victim.
HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED
On a chilly December night, Agatha's car was found at the bottom of a chalk pit some distance from her home. Although it was cold, her fur coat was still in the car. There was no driver in sight, and the car was turned off - indicating that someone had pushed it into the pit. Police suspected foul play.
Agatha's husband, Colonel Archibald Christie, was immediately questioned by the police. Where had he been that night? At a dinner party. What was the occasion? The Colonel, abashed, admitted that it was a party to announce his engagement to his new love, Nancy Neele. Had he and Agatha been getting along? No. In fact, he had recently told her that he was having an affair and wanted a divorce. They'd even had a screaming battle about his infidelity the morning before she disappeared. The questions took a harder edge. Was he at the party all evening? No, he admitted. while at the party, he had received a call from his wife, who'd threatened to come and make a scene. He drove home to try to placate her, but when he arrived, no one was there. So he went back to the party. The detectives let the Colonel go, but told him not to leave town.
A massive search began for the missing celebrity. Two thousand volunteers searched 40 square miles of countryside, while the police dragged nearby rivers and lakes looking for her body. But Agatha was still alive. She had fled to the far side of England and checked into a hotel in Harrogate under the name Mrs. Neele (the name of her husband's true love). And after 11 days of intense publicity, hotel employees (who had seen a reward offered in the paper) recognized her and called the police. They informed the Colonel, and he rushed to Harrogate to be with his wife. The next day, the Christies sneaked out of the hotel's back door to escape the press.
A CASE OF AMNESIA?
Two physicians were called in to examine Agatha, and shortly afterward, Archibald Christie announced to the press that his wife had amnesia and remembered nothing of the previous 11 days. She had no idea why her car was miles away from her home, how it got into the pit, how she got from one end of England to the other, or where she got the large sum of money she used to rent her hotel room ... and buy an expensive new wardrobe. Skeptical, the press accused Agatha of playing an elaborate hoax - a hoax that cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, and police and volunteers hours of needless labor. The novelist's extreme dislike of publicity throughout her life can perhaps be traced back not just to her natural shyness, but to the overdose of attention she received at the time.
Agatha claimed that her very unusual case of "amnesia" obscured the complete truth for her for the rest of her life. According to her authorized biography, under psychotherapy, she regained some of her memories of staying in the hotel. But she never discussed the incident publicly, even in an autobiography that she wrote for publication after her death.
The article above, written by Bathroom Reader Institute contributor Jack Mingo, is reprinted with permission from The Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.
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