It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the books, the TV show, or both, because there’s one mystery that unites all Outlander devotees. And that, of course, is the ghost of Jamie Fraser.
You’ll recall that in the first chapter of author Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book and in the first episode of the Starz series, Frank Randall proclaims to his wife Claire Randall that he feels like he may have seen a ghost. At the time, Frank and Claire were on their second honeymoon in Inverness, Scotland, in 1945 (on the show) and 1946 (in the books).
As Frank says in the book, he spotted a “big chap … a Scot, in complete Highland rig-out” on the street watching Claire fiddle with her hair through the window of Mrs. Baird’s bed-and-breakfast. He comes to wonder if this chap is a ghost when he brushes by him, and doesn’t feel a thing.
That’s what we know for certain. The rest? Well, Gabaldon has dropped some serious hints over the years, and fans themselves have some very convincing theories, and the good news is that we’ll definitely find out how Jamie’s ghost plays into the story; the bad news is, we have to wait a while before all’s revealed.
In the meantime, let’s dive deep into some of the most realistic theories around the Ghost Of Jamie Fraser.
What We Know For Certain About Jamie’s Ghost, According To Gabaldon
The identity of the ghost is never explicitly stated in the books, but Gabaldon has confirmed that it is, in fact, Claire’s future second husband from the past, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.
On the FAQ page of her website, Gabaldon states, “The ghost is Jamie — but as for how it fits into the story, All Will Be Explained — in the last book.” Her website also notes that the currently-untitled tenth book is the last of the Outlander novels. So, rest assured, people, there is a ghost, it’s Jamie, and we’ll definitely find out how everything is connected.
The Dipp recently spoke to Gabaldon over the phone all about the ghost. The author confirmed that “it’s definitely Jamie, for the record” — and provided plenty of other intriguing details about Jamie’s ghostly future.
The Starz series, for its part, nods to Jamie’s ghost in Season 1, Episode 8. After Claire disappears through the stones at Craigh na Dun, Frank has the local police make a “Have You Seen This Man?” poster of the Highlander in 18th-century gear he encountered back in Episode 1. The sketch of the alleged apparition looks remarkably like Jamie.
Gabaldon has provided clues over the years about Jamie’s ghost but as the above meme highlights, there are few concrete facts we know about him — including that his appearance in the 1940s has nothing to do with time travel since she has repeatedly said Jamie cannot time travel.
What The Ghost Means To The Story, And To The Fans
For Outlander fans, the mystery of Jamie’s ghost is easily one of the most popular topics of discussion. Just ask Nancianne Suber, a moderator of the Facebook fan group Outlander Series Plus.
She tells The Dipp that the ghost is “the single most frequently asked question we get in our group.”
“But,” she adds, “the asking of it is also the first indication of a true Outlander fan in the making! It thrills your heart when you see another new fan starting that incredible journey by questioning, ‘Who was that man?!’”
Despite Gabaldon telling The Dipp she’s never seen a fan totally pin-point the ending she has in mind, nothing will stop readers and viewers from theorizing just how Jamie’s ghost will play out at the end of the book series and TV show. I mean, come on. We have to talk about something during this everlasting Droughtlander!
Here are six possibilities for the fate of Jamie’s ghost.
1. Jamie Will Die Before Claire At The End Of The Books
It’s not a spoiler to say that Jamie Fraser, a man born in 1721, is obviously no longer alive in 1945/1946. (As he told Claire in Drums of Autumn, “Two hundred years from now, I shall most certainly be dead, Sassenach.”)
But what if his ghostly visit has to do with the fact that Jamie died in his timeline before Claire?
Tracy Sterling, who runs the Instagram account OutlanderObsessed (she’s also on Twitter and Facebook), thinks this is the most likely theory. “Some of my speculation is that Jamie died before Claire back in the early 1800s.”
This theory may seem wrong, since Gabaldon has said that the ending of Outlander will be a happy one; she previously tweeted that the conclusion of Jamie and Claire’s story is “what comes before the ghost scene,” which, she confirmed to The Dipp, means that the final ghost reveal acts more like an epilogue (a literary device she featured in A Breath of Snow and Ashes) than a major part of the plot.
Suber of Outlander Series Plus has come up with a theory that’s able to explain how the ending can be both happy and feature a dead Jamie Fraser: “I think the books end — after many more incredible adventures — with Jamie and Claire happily living out their lives at Fraser’s Ridge. At peace at last and blissfully happy together, they are spending their twilight years surrounded by generations of their own extended family … a Fraser version of happily ever after if ever there were one!” she says.
From there, Suber thinks the epilogue will explain that “Jamie passed peacefully away of natural causes (I hope in Claire’s arms in his own bed!!).”
2. Jamie Led Claire To The Past
If Claire had never gone back to Craigh Na Dun to collect the blue forget-me-not flowers she’d seen after watching the sunrise Druid ceremony at the site, she may have never gone back in time through the stones.
One popular theory is that Jamie is responsible for planting the flowers that intrigued Claire and led to her time traveling.
Although Gabaldon didn’t include a scene where Claire tells Jamie about going back for flowers, it’s possible that when she told Jamie she was from the future after her witch trial, she included that detail. “I speculate that Claire told Jamie the circumstances of her going to the stones, which makes me wonder if Jamie planted the flowers,” Sterling says. “He wants to ensure those flowers are there.”
As for when Jamie planted the flowers, is it possible he could have planted them as a ghost in the 1940s? If you don’t believe ghosts have green thumbs, he may have done it sometime in that 20-year time span they were apart after he sent Claire back to the future in 1746 (as long as the flowers could survive two centuries).
Or, for an even more romantic spin, maybe the couple will return to Scotland in the late 1700s/early 1800s and plant them together.
3. Jamie’s Ghost Is Connected To His Dreams
Another popular, but perhaps more controversial, theory is based on Jamie’s prophetic dreams that are touched upon in the show and featured more prominently in the books. In his dreams, he can see his family in the future and sometimes he even sees himself interacting with them.
Some fans think this could be Jamie projecting himself into the future through his dreams in a phenomenon that has a number of names such as astral traveling, astral projection, and dream traveling.
According to Suber, many fans “believe Jamie’s ghost was a projection of his gift of second sight and ability to dream travel.” So rather than Jamie in 1945/1946 being a ghost, the vision Frank saw was Jamie astral projecting.
While Suber notes this theory is “a great explanation for Jamie’s ghost,” she’s not exactly sold.
“I struggled with Diana calling it Jamie’s ‘ghost’, which is traditionally defined as an apparition of a dead person, as opposed to the out-of-body experience of a live person having an astral projection or dream traveling,” she says. “To be a ghost you must be dead!” She has a point.
4. The Battle Of Culloden Allowed Jamie’s Soul To Visit Claire
Fans often reference the fact that in 2014, Gabaldon told The Outlander Podcast that Jamie’s ghost is 25 years old. (She reveals this around the 48-minute mark.)
Since Jamie was born on May 1, 1721 and the Battle of Culloden took place on April 16, 1746, some fans wonder if Jamie’s spirit was able to visit Claire in 1945/1946 when he was near death during the battle.
Should fans spend time speculating as to what the age of Jamie’s ghost means?
In The Dipp’s conversation with Gabaldon about the ghost, she stated matter-of-factly, “I mean, that is the age that he is, but it’s fine with me if they’d like to contemplate why.”
5. The Gaelic Festivals Allow Jamie’s Ghost To Appear
In the TV show, Frank sees the ghost in Season 1, Episode 1 during the Gaelic harvest festival of Samhain. In the books, Frank sees the ghost during the Gaelic fire festival of Beltane.
Either way, Suber notes that Jamie’s “ghostly self could move about freely” due to those holidays. As Frank told Claire about those ancient feasts in Outlander, “… ghosts are freed on the holy days, and can wander about at will, to do harm or good as they please.”
Referring to Gabaldon’s phrase that “Ghosts don’t need no stinkin’ stones” to travel through time and space, Suber adds, “We know Ghost Jamie can go wherever he wants … especially on feast or fire days like Beltane or Samhain, when the veil thins and spirits can roam the earth freely.”
6. Jamie Is Stuck In Purgatory
One of the more emotional theories, which can be backed up by the second book, is that Jamie’s ghost is an indication he’s in purgatory.
When Jamie sends Claire back through the stones and into the future in Dragonfly in Amber, he declares he will find her again, no matter what. “I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you — then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes,” he says.
Suber wonders if, after Jamie dies in his old age, Claire goes back to her own time (perhaps to reunite with Brianna and Roger MacKenzie, if they have returned to the future again).
Whatever her reason for time traveling, it could have a negative impact. If Claire returns to the future after Jamie dies around 1800, she’d arrive around the year 2002 — which means she’d die in the 2000s. That could mean Jamie’s soul (which left the earth in the 19th century) would have to wait those 200 years to reconnect with his wife.
“Claire, by returning to her own time, extended the time she would be separated from Jamie in the hereafter by the original 200 years. She would now die in the 21st century rather than the 19th,” Suber theorizes.
“Jamie waited as promised in purgatory, patiently or not, all those 200 years,” she continues. “As 1945 finally arrived, he made his way to Craigh Na Dun.”
If you subscribe to Suber’s theory, Jamie will still have a few more decades to wait for Claire to join him in death after his visit to the 1940s. But she says, “It will all end well despite the wibbly wobbly timeline!”
Jamie’s soul wandering around for 200 years is a sad thought, but Gabaldon has tweeted, “Ghosts don’t exist in a place where time has meaning,” so maybe it will pass by in a blur for him.
How It Could All End
No matter how Gabaldon ties in Jamie’s ghost in the final pages of the Outlander series, her fanbase has faith that it will be the ideal ending to Jamie and Claire’s love story. “Whatever the real answer will be, I can hardly wait to read it!” Suber says. “And I’m sure Diana’s version will not disappoint!!”
In case this gives you peace of mind, we do know that the ghost ending will befittingly combine all the romantic and fantasy elements of the entire Outlander series.
As Jamie once told Claire in Drums of Autumn, “And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire — I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you.” So no matter how Jamie’s ghost ends up in the 1940s, he’s there for the most swoon-worthy of reasons.