Historians have long scratched their heads over why celebrated crime writer Agatha Christie disappeared in 1926 only to mysteriously turn up 11 days later at a hotel hundreds of miles from her Berkshire home.
But now BBC historian Lucy Worsley thinks she has found the reasons why Christie, dubbed the ‘Queen of Crime’ for writing 66 crime novels, including the stories of beloved detectives Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, inexplicably disappeared: indeed , was experiencing a rare psychological state brought on by emotional trauma.
Christie, then 36 years old, had entered a ‘fugue state’, in which he would have suffered a loss of his own sense of identity, amnesia and the desire to embark on a sudden and unplanned trip away from home.
Mystery solved? Historians have long wondered why celebrated crime writer Agatha Christie disappeared in 1926, but historian Lucy Worsley thinks she has the answer.
Two emotional traumas may have triggered such a condition.
Eight months before her disappearance in April 1926, Christie had lost her mother, with whom she had been exceptionally close, and was suffering from depression as a result.
Then, in August 1926, her husband, Colonel Archie Christie, a pilot in World War I, announced that he wanted a divorce because he was in love with a younger woman, Nancy Neele.
Lucy Worsley believes that Christie fell into a “fugue state”, a rare psychological condition, in 1926
Worsley, who has been investigating the mysterious disappearance for her new biography, Agatha Christie, said BBC history magazine that she believes the author’s mental state deteriorated during this time.
The historian said: ‘She reported forgetfulness, crying, insomnia, inability to cope with normal life. Her mental state became so bad that she considered suicide..’
By December, Christie had fallen into a “fugue state”.
Worsley explained: ‘Now this is a very rare condition, and it causes you to break out of your normal self and take on another personality, so you don’t have to think about the trauma that you’ve been experiencing in your current situation.’
News of Agatha Christie’s disappearance sparked a media frenzy and manhunt across the country.
News reports speculated about Christie’s disappearance, including suggestions that it was a hoax.
On December 3, 1926, Christie had an argument with her husband and a few hours later kissed their seven-year-old daughter Rosalind goodbye and disappeared from their home in Sunningdale, Berkshire.
The next morning, his car was discovered at Newlands Corner in Surrey, parked over a chalk quarry with an expired driver’s license and clothes inside.
News of Agatha Christie’s disappearance sparked a media frenzy and nationwide persecution.
More than a thousand police officers, 15,000 volunteers and several planes searched the rural landscape.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, became involved after giving a spirit medium one of Christie’s gloves to help track down the writer.
On December 14, 1926, she was finally placed in a hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire, registered to Mrs. Tressa Neele, using the surname of her husband’s mistress.
After Christie was found, he claimed that he could not remember a detail of what had happened in those 11 days and rarely spoke of the incident again.
After being found, Christie claimed that she could not remember a single detail of what had happened in those 11 days and rarely spoke of the incident again.
Some accused her of faking the entire event as a way to scold her cheating husband or, worse, to frame him for her murder, but Worsley disagrees.
She said: ‘That’s not framing your cheating husband for murder, that’s living with a really serious mental health condition.
Christie divorced Archie in 1928 and married Max Mallowan in 1930.
She was made a Dame in 1971 and died at the age of 85 in January 1976.
He has sold over two billion books and his play The Mousetrap has been running for a record 70 years.