On a Disappearance

The woman’s car was found abandoned on the side of a rural road parked above the rim of a quarry. One door was ajar, and inside the car were some clothing and an expired driver’s license.

The police, as they do, immediately looked into the family situation. They soon discovered that the husband was having an affair and that the couple had even spoken of getting a divorce. That raised some suspicion over the whereabouts of the man on the night his wife vanished. Their suspicions were increased when the husband admitted that the couple had an intense argument the night he last saw his wife. Why, they kept asking him, would his wife leave without a word or a trace, especially since there was a 7 year old daughter upon whom she doted.

This was the 1920s, and sensationalist journalism was becoming the norm. The story of the woman’s disappearance made front pages all across the country. The husband and wife were of money, so that added to the public’s interest. To the readers of the press, this story had many of the elements of a detective story or a mystery film: Jealousy, infidelity, money, an abandoned child, and, now, possibly–murder. The public followed the story like they would a serial in a magazine.

The quarry where the car had been discovered had some water in it, but the water was thoroughly searched and produced no leads. Nothing in the vehicle indicated foul play. No one had seen the woman on the road or anywhere in the vicinity on the night in question. The police continued to question the husband and watch him closely, but they could not make an arrest because there was no evidence of a crime. There was simply a person missing.

How could someone simply disappear without a trace?

The public interest in the case brought with it a certain celebrity of its own. Thousands of people volunteered to join the search parties who combed the countryside looking for clues. Airplanes were used in the search for a person for one of the first times in history. Even public figures like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, contacted a medium to see if any information from “the other side” could lead to finding the woman.

Despite this intensive searching and the wall-to-wall media coverage, the woman wasn’t found…for ten days. Finally, a woman who had registered under the last name of the husband’s mistress had been located 200 miles from her home in a sort of rest home/hotel. It turned out to be the missing wife. When questioned, she swore that she had no memory of how she got there or why she was registered under the name of her husband’s girlfriend. And, even though she lived another fifty years, no one ever figured out what happened to her for those ten days or why she did what she did.

Remember how the public looked at this case like a murder mystery? That was appropriate, considering the woman who mysteriously disappeared for ten days with no discernable reason was one Agatha Christie.

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