Monday, March 5, 2012

Real Life Author Mysteries

Authors create stories, worlds, characters...mysteries. They give us entertainment, draw us into another time or place, another reality. But sometimes authors are drawn into mysteries of their own.

Probably the most famous mystery surrounding an author was that of Agatha Christie, best-selling mystery novelist.

In 1926, Agatha Christie's husband, Archie, told her he was in love with another woman, one Nancy Neele. She had just lost her mother that year, and his betrayal hit her hard. One night, when Archie was staying with friends (or his mistress, depending upon who's telling the story), Agatha disappeared.

As far as the country knew, Agatha's car was discovered, abandoned, a short distance from a lake called Silent Pool, which she had used for inspiration in one of her stories. There was clothing in her car, her identification. She had left her secretary a note that she was going to Yorkshire. People started pointing the finger at Archie, accusing him of having killed her. Others thought perhaps she'd killed herself, as she was known to suffer from depression.

In reality, she had ditched her car and her things, and walked to the train station, heading to Harrogate circa London. She even bought herself a lovely new coat in London. She then checked herself into a spa.

During the eleven days she was missing, police searched the countryside. She was in the news. People at the spa she was staying at even asked if she was that famous missing writer, but she told them she wasn't. She'd checked in under the name Theresa Neele (notice the last name is the same as Archie's mistress's).  She sent a letter to Archie's brother telling him she was going to Yorkshire for a rest, and she took out an ad in a paper saying she, Theresa Neele, was looking for her family, and that they could contact her at the spa.

Finally, police were notified and Archie showed up at the spa in Harrogate to collect Agatha. Doctors examined her and stated she had been in a fugue state. Archie announced to the press that she was suffering amnesia, and hadn't known who she really was.

Agatha Christie died in 1976, never having given the real story. Was she in a fugue state? Did she set it up so her husband would be accused of a murder he hadn't committed? Or did she simply need to get away?

Close behind Agatha Christie is Edgar Allan Poe, another mystery writer. The circumstances surrounding his death on October 7, 1849 are a mystery. He was found, delirious, on October 3 outside a bar, wearing someone else's clothing. This was after having last been seen September 28. His whereabouts during that time period have never been discovered.

It is claimed that he said the name "Reynolds" over and over throughout his delirium. During his stay in the hospital he swung back and forth between brief lucid moments and delirium and hallucinations, even slipping into a brief coma. He was never able to tell anyone where he had been or what had happened, and the true cause of death is unknown. He was listed as having died of congestion of the brain.

Many feel he died from alcohol withdrawal or alcohol poisoning. Experts say his symptoms don't fit this theory. Also, he had been alcohol-free for six months. The University of Maryland Medical Center released a report in 1996 claiming they felt he had died of rabies, and that his symptoms fit with this theory (University of Maryland Report). Another theory says he was a victim of cooping, where a victim is plied with liquor and forced to go to all the polling places to vote for a candidate who has paid for this treatment. However, there were no reports of an issue like a drunken man having issues at any polling place.

It would seem those missing days and the cause of his death will forever remain a mystery. Was it rabies? Cooping? Alcoholism? Or something more dire? And who was Reynolds?

What do you think happened to Poe? How about Agatha Christie? Know of any other real life author mysteries?

Come back tomorrow for an interview with author, j.a. kazimer! Thursday, author Stephen Tremp will be guest posting!

May you find your Muse.


  1. oh my goodness...such an interesting post! I have often noted how remarkable are the lives and deaths of creative people!
    i am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.

  2. To me it sounds like Agatha knew exactly what she was doing.

  3. My wife and I just watched the story of Agatha Christie on a dvd from our library the other day. It was so fascinating. My wife started reading her books, based on seeing that one documentary.
    I had not heard the last few days of Poe, sad to think that some of these lives are cut off too soon.
    Great post!

  4. I'm already planning my mysterious getaway. And I agree with Alex, I think she knew what she was doing. But maybe the amnesia explanation made her more interesting and sold a few more books?

  5. I would imagine that the "mother of all mystery writers" would spice things up a little by plotting some real-life mystery... maybe a strategy to blur the lines between fact & fiction? Who knows?

  6. Agatha Christie lived just a few houses away from where I live now. I love that I walk the same streets she walked.

  7. Wow. I imagine the events behind both of those mysteries would make an interesting story.

  8. There was an excellent episode of Dr Who about the Agatha Christie thing.

  9. Poe's death is very strange. When I researched Lewis carroll I felt there was a mystery surrounding the four years of his life for which his personal diary was missing - it disappeared in unlikely circumstances. Your mention of Agatha Christie reminded me I have a dvd of "Death on the Nile" which I have been planning to watch!

  10. Delirious, raving, and wearing someone else's clothing, eh? Why does that sound so familiar to me?

  11. No idea, but each of unsolved stories are a great source of another story/book for writer's of the genre. We'll just never know, but it sets the imagination on fire..I had not idea about Agatha's missing days. Thanks for sharing with us.

  12. momto8, I wonder if it has to do with their personalities or if it's simply coincidence or something else. I will be by to visit soon!

    Alex, seems like it, doesn't it?

    Ron, I believe Poe was only about 40 when he died, too, so definitely way too young! I remember seeing the Agatha Christie story on an Unsolved Mysteries originally.

    Annalisa, her fans were enraged at her, and no one seems to have bought the amnesia story, even with several doctors backing it up. However, I also don't think it hurt her book sales, because this was early in her career.

    MISH, she was certainly having a high ol' time at the spa, dancing, getting spoiled. And yeah, she was the mother of mystery. It's hard to imagine she didn't think that one all the way through.

    Talli, that is so cool!! Is there still a Silent Pool?

    Randy, funny you said that...I believe the John Cusack movie about Edgar Allan Poe is someone's story of what they think might have happened during that missing time. Should be interesting!

    Andrew, oh now, that sounds interesting!

    Jenny, I didn't know that about L.C. That sounds like something intriguing to look into.

    B/B, personal experience?

    Brenda, that's a really good point. I remember my mind going wild while watching Unsolved Mysteries (I loved that show) as a teen. I wonder if Netflix has it...?