What was really behind the mysterious disappearance of Agatha Christie?

Agatha Christie and her daughter Rosalind (right) are featured in a newspaper article reporting the novelist’s disappearance. Thousands of people have joined the manhunt to find her. Archives Hulton/Getty Images

In the spring of 1926, Agatha’s beloved mother died, leaving her devastated. To make matters worse, Archie (who had told her earlier that he didn’t like dealing with illness or death) went to london instead of helping his wife clear out her mother’s house in Torquay. Agatha became depressed, and over the next few weeks seemed to be on the verge of a mental health crisis. Meanwhile, Archie began an affair with family friend Nancy Neele, approaching Agatha for a divorce in August; Agatha refused to grant him one. The Christies tried to reconcile but on December 3 they had a falling out and Archie left the house for the weekend. That’s when it all went wrong.

In the evening, Agatha left a sleeping Rosalind in the care of the house staff, then left in the night. The next morning, his abandoned car was discovered stuck in bushes above a chalk quarry. The police immediately set out to find him, joined by thousands of ordinary people after a flurry of publicity about the case. Rumors started swirling that she had drowned or that Archie had killed her. Another possibility: she was hiding to frame Archie for his murder.

Eleven days after her disappearance, Agatha was found alive at the Harrogate Spa Hotel, curiously registered as Teresa Neele, previously from South Africa. Neele, of course, was the surname of Archie’s mistress, while South Africa was a place where Agatha and Archie spent happy times. When Archie came to pick her up, she didn’t know who he was.

So what was the real reason for the disappearance? In the only interview she gave on the subject, Agatha said that she has lost his memory – coincidentally, something that sometimes happened to the characters in his novels. After psychotherapy, she was able to recreate an account of what had happened. Christie said she left the house that night discouraged and contemplated suicide. After driving aimlessly through the countryside, she accidentally crashed her car near the chalk quarry, causing her to hit something on the head.

After getting out of the car, she drove to a train station, where she drove to Harrogate. She did not disguise herself or hide her handwriting in any way when she signed up as Teresa Neele. She dined at the hotel restaurant, took part in the evening dance and did not seem to notice the newspaper articles about her disappearance and the ensuing manhunt.

But many people (including later biographers) did not believe she suffered from memory loss, speculating that she deliberately engineered her disappearance. However, Lucy Worsley, historian and author of the new biography ‘Agatha Christie: An English Mystery’, says it was not a scam, but a serious episode of mental health.

In an interview published in the BBC HistoryExtra, Worsley said she believed Agatha had entered a state of fugue. “Now it’s a very rare condition, and it causes you to step out of your normal self and into another personality, so you don’t have to think about the trauma you’ve been through in your current situation,” she said. said. “It’s not setting up your cheating husband for murder – it’s living with a very serious mental health issue. And yet the narrative is that she was somehow a bad person who was playing some kind of trick on the world : maybe she was doing it to trick the husband; maybe she was doing it to draw attention to the sale of novels.

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