Agatha Christie's legendary 'disappearance' in Harrogate explained

Some people have been calling for years for Harrogate to do more capitalise on its close association on Agatha Christie, the world's greatest crime writer.

Thursday, 13th April 2017, 2:58 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 8:21 pm
New Harrogate exhibition - World's greatest crime writer Agatha Christie.

Now, thanks to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, that is about to happen when, appropriately, an exhibition devoted to Agatha Christie takes place this summer at the Old Swan Hotel.The creator of Poirot and Miss Marple was famously 'found' in the traditiona Harrogate hotel after her famous 'disappearance' in 1926.How she got there is a story in itself.When Christie’s car was discovered abandoned at Newlands Corner near Guildford, a picnic site and beauty spot on a ridge of the Albury Downs, part of the North Downs, her real life began to grip like one of her fictional mysteries. It sparked the biggest national manhunt the country had known, with over a thousand policeman assigned to the case. Two of Britain’s most famous crime writers, Sherlock creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers were drawn into the search. Conan Doyle, who was interested in the occult, even went as far as taking a discarded glove of Christie’s to a medium, while Sayers visited the scene of the disappearance, later using it in the novel Unnatural Death.The story dominated headlines partly because the recently published Murder of Roger Ackroyd on Collins had been such a big success. The disappearance inadvertently helped put her on the map and also led to Harrogate’s long association with crime writers. After 11 days, Christie was found at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel, as the Old Swan was then called, in Harrogate.Theories as to what caused the famous writer's disappearance were many.But the truth was as follows:The story goes that in late 1926, Agatha’s husband Archie revealed that he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele, and wanted a divorce. On December 3, 1926, the couple quarrelled, and Archie Christie left their house, Styles, in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalming, Surrey. That same evening, Agatha disappeared. Christie herself never gave an explanation for her disappearance. Although two doctors had diagnosed her as suffering from amnesia, opinion remains divided as to the reasons for her disappearance. One suggestion is that she had suffered a nervous breakdown brought about by a natural propensity for depression, exacerbated by her mother’s death earlier that year, and the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. Public reaction at the time was largely negative with many believing it was all just a publicity stunt, whilst others speculated she was trying to make the police think her husband killed her as revenge for his affair.This year's Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival has possibly its best line-up to date.Taking place over four days from July 20-23 at the Old Swan Hotel, this year's programme courtesy of Harrogate International Festivals features a new Agatha Christie exhibition and a wealth of famous writers and actors, including Dennis Lehane, Ann Cleeves, Brenda Blethyn, Lee Child, Kathy Reichs, Robson Green and Ian Rankin.

The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.
The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.