On December 4, 1926, Agatha Christie vanished for ten days. She was already a well-known author and her disappearance was extremely controversial, captivating worldwide public attention.
Her mother had recently died, causing her great grief. Not long after, her husband demanded that she file for divorce from him so he could marry his friend Nancy Neele. Divorce was terribly scandalous and shocking in those days; it was also complicated. Her husband couldn't file for divorce without compromising Nancy's social standing. Also, Mrs Christie had been doing her best to reconcile with him and find a way for him to feel like they could stay together, especially since the couple had a daughter whom they both cherished.
An enormous amount of publicity and police energy were devoted to finding her. The circumstances of her disappearance were so much like something out of one of her books that some suspected she'd set it up for promotional purposes (two of her new books were being serialized in newspapers). Her husband was investigated, more with the idea that he might have driven her to suicide than that he killed her himself. Arthur Conan Doyle became involvednote as did Dorothy L. Sayersnote . However, she turned up alive and well at a popular health spa / hotel in Yorkshire, having registered as Teresa Neele.note
Speculations have run rampant for generations as to Mrs Christie's state of mind and reasoning at the time. She had initially pretended to be confused and having trouble with her memory, but had been relaxing and having fun in a normal way at the hotel. After she was found, her husband played up the amnesia angle to the press to cover his own conduct.
The media portrayed her as having set up a cynical publicity stunt. Recent research has uncovered proof that while she certainly was distraught and stressed, she consciously staged the disappearance to get back at her husband by making it look as if he'd murdered her or driven her mad; her beloved sister-in-law helped her with the scheme and coverup. She had never meant for it to become a worldwide phenomenon. She never mentioned it and left it out of her autobiography, but it forever haunted both her writing and her daily life.
Christie's genius as an author was so great that it once saved an infant's life. Doctors in a hospital were stumped by a baby who was growing continually worse despite all their best efforts. A nurse in the same hospital happened to be reading Christie's novel The Pale Horse at the time; the solution to that book involves people secretly being dosed with thallium, a toxic chemical. Christie, an expert in poisons and medicine, had detailed the symptoms of thallium poisoning so accurately the the nurse was able to recognize them in the infant by comparing them to the novel's descriptions. She told the doctors her suspicions, and sure enough, trace amounts of thallium were discovered in the baby's body. They quickly made adjustments, and the baby lived. And the best part? Christie had died the previous year! Her works truly lived on after her.
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- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: JoJolion, Rai Mamezuku references "A Pocket Full of Rye" written by Agatha Christie when utilizing yew seeds against an opponent after discussing how poisonous they are.
- The "Wagatha Christie" libel case of 2022 is named after her. This will take some unpacking for readers unfamiliar with British popular culture. During the 2008 FIFA World Cup, the England team were accompanied by their Wives And Girlfriends — the WAGs, or Wags. Later, we got the singular form "Wag" for a sportsman's other half. In the late 2010s, Wag A (Colleen Rooney) suspected that Wag B (Rebekah Vardy) was the source of unflattering stories about Ms Rooney that had appeared in the tabloid press, and publicly accused her after doing some amateur detective work. Wags + detection? Wagatha Christie! Ms Vardy sued for libel, and the case came to trial in May 2022.