Agatha Christie, renowned author and the most popular writer of whodunits perhaps of all time. Her books have become movies, her tropes have become standards, and her methods have inspired millions. But an interesting fact you might not be aware of is that her literary origins have an Indian flavour.
Agatha Christie's first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), was inspired by a murder-mystery at a hotel in Mussoorie called The Savoy.
Commissioned in 1902 by Cecil D Lincoln, an Irish barrister from Lucknow, Hotel Savoy hosted many dignitaries in the early 20th century within its opulent doors. But one legend from its glory days still lives on.
The hotel is said to be haunted by the ghost of Lady Garnett, a British spiritualist who was found dead in her room with the door locked from the inside.
In 1911, the 49-year-old spinster travelled to Mussorie, along with Miss Eva Mountstephen, another spiritualist from Lucknow. It is said that Lady Garnett could communicate with the dead through crystal-gazing.
On the morning she was found dead, traces of prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) were found in the autopsy. Suspicion fell on Lady Mountstephen, who had hurriedly left that very morning.
She was convicted for tampering with Garnett's bottle of sodium bicarbonate, but was released as there was no hard evidence found.
The case became even murkier when the doctor who conducted Lady Garnett’s autopsy was also found dead. The case remains unsolved till this day.
At the time, Rudyard Kipling actually compiled the details of the case and sent them to Arthur Conan Doyle (what is this, a crossover episode?), who was also unable to help move the case forward.
However, from there, the facts of the case reached Agatha Christie, wherein it was used in the draft of her first novel. The Savoy's architecture even influenced the setting of the book.
Since then, visitors and residents of the hotel claim to have seen apparitions, things moving in the night, and all kinds of other ghostly activity near her room. They believe Lady Garnett's ghost still resides there.
The hotel was shut down for many years in the middle, but was refurbished in 2009, and now functions as a place for people not just looking for lodging, but also as a reminder of a ghostly past.