By December of 1926, Agatha Christie’s career was going quite well. Her mystery novels were bestsellers and the public was eager for more.
Her personal life, however, was much less rosy. Her beloved mother had died earlier in the year and her husband Archie had asked for a divorce so that he could marry the woman he had been having an affair with.
She may have been near breaking point when, on the evening of the 3rd, she got into her car and drove into the night.
She never returned.
A search was initiated after she didn’t come home, and her car was found the next morning by a nearby lake. Some of her clothes and personal papers were found inside the vehicle, but there were no clues as to where she went.
The disappearance of Agatha Christie would make front page news and sparked a nation-wide hunt that included thousands of volunteers and, for the first time, search airplanes. Suspecting suicide, the lake near the car was dredged to no avail.
To add to the mystery, disturbing and vague letters she had written and mailed right before her disappearance arrived after she had vanished. In one she told her brother-in-law that she was going on vacation. In another she told local police she was afraid someone was trying to kill her.
Possibly viewing Agatha as an obstacle of his plans to marry his paramour, suspicion fell on Archie, and police tapped his phone and followed his movements closely.
As the days went on, the search spread out to all parts of Great Britain. Fellow mystery writers got involved: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took one of Agatha’s gloves to a noted psychic and Dorothy L. Sayers visited Agatha’s house and the place where the car was found.
It wasn’t until December 14th that the search ended. As it turned out, Agatha had checked into a hotel spa on the 4th under an false name (using, ironically, the surname of Archie’s mistress) and one of the staff recognized Agatha ten days later from the photographs that were flooding the newspapers. The police brought Archie to the hotel and he promptly identified Agatha as his wife. Agatha seemed confused and mis-identified Archie as her brother.
Agatha was brought home and was quickly and completely hidden from reporters.
Because nobody was providing any answers, various scenarios would later be given by the newspapers as theories as to what had happened: temporary amnesia, a nervous breakdown, a plot of revenge to embarrass and humiliate her husband, or a publicity stunt to increase sales of her books. Nobody knew for certain what had transpired. And nobody knows to this day.
Agatha herself would never refer to her “missing” eleven days again. She provides no answers in her autobiography.
Soon after returning home, she would return to writing her popular novels featuring Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. She and Archie divorced in 1928.
Unlike her numerous novels, the case of the missing 11 days is the one mystery of Agatha’s that remains unsolved.
“Christie’s most famous mystery solved at last” The Observer, 15 October 2006.
“Why did mystery writer Agatha Christie mysteriously disappear?” The Straight Dope, pulled 8/11/11
“The Mysterious Disappearance of Agatha Christie” CriminalElement.com, pulled 8/11/11