How “Outlander” Transformed Local History and Captivated the World

04 Sep 2023

An Outlander-themed podcast from the Burgwin-Wright House revives the forgotten tales of the Cape Fear Region

By Gwenyfar Rohler

“Local history is being globalized in a way by Outlander.” –Hunter Ingram

Destiny comes calling in strange ways. For Claire and Jamie Frasier in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, it requires time travel and battle. For Hunter Ingram, it came through a sinkhole.  In 2017, the then-staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News was assigned to cover a sinkhole at the corner of Second and Market Streets.

“It was where Jacob’s Run was,” Ingram explains. Jacob’s Run is the most well-known tunnel under the old part of the city of Wilmington. “It was very popular, and the paper was like, ‘just write something about what that is,’ because people are curious about it.”  Not surprisingly, the tunnels under the streets are always mysterious and curious. So, Ingram wrote a short explainer about their history, “and it was huge!” he recalls. 

Never in his wildest dreams did Ingram think that assignment would lead him to develop a podcast that would be listened to in 37 countries and every state in America. Five years later, “Burgwin-Wright Presents: Outlander in the Cape Fear” has taken thousands of people on a journey through time to make life in Colonial North Carolina palpable.  

The Journey Begins: Cape Fear Unearthed

“One thing we don’t always get is a lot of Colonial History,” Ingram notes. Living in Wilmington, NC, home of Fort Fisher, the last Confederate Fort to fall, a lot of focus is put on the Civil War. “We have a lot of people who don’t recognize that this area’s history doesn’t begin with the Civil War.” 

While at Star-News, Ingram developed and produced the “Cape Fear Unearthed” podcast exploring local history as a result of the response to the story about Jacob’s Run and the other tunnels under our city streets. In 2021, Ingram left Star-News to work as a historian educator for the Old Baldy Foundation for nine months.  

Finding A Home: The Colonial Dames and the Burgwin-Wright House

Later, Ingram landed at the Burgwin-Wright House as the Assistant Museum Director. “The Burgwin-Wright House is Wilmington’s oldest and largest historic site,” he explains. “It’s a 1744 jailhouse as a foundation of a 1770s house.” The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of North Carolina (NSCDA), which was founded in 1894, owns and runs the house, along with two colonial homes in Raleigh and one of the structures at Old Salem that have been restored.

“We’re their headquarters. They [NSCDA] bought the Burgwin-Wright House in 1937 to save it from being demolished and turned into a gas station,” says Ingram, who adds with pride, “They raised $21,000 from the local community… at the height of The Depression. So, they were able to pull that together.”

When Ingram joined the team at the Burgwin-Wright House, Christine E. Lamberton, Museum Director, and Joy Allen, Executive Director of the Colonial Dames, were both familiar with the “Cape Fear Unearthed” podcast. So, when he pitched the idea for “Outlander in the Cape Fear,” they were on board.  

“This is not something that has ever been part of preservation organizations,” Ingram recalls. “I came on at the Burgwin-Wright House as Covid restrictions were loosening and people were starting to venture back out into the world. One of the most valuable lessons people were learning at the time is not everyone is going to be able to make it to your historic site, but people still want to learn about it, and a podcast is a beautiful way to do that.” 

Outlander: A Lens to View Colonial North Carolina

Interestingly, the world of Outlander maps over many of the stories of the Burgwin-Wright House. For example, Claire Randall, the time-traveling nurse who is the protagonist of Outlander starts the series in 1945 as a WWII nurse before traveling back through time to 1743.  Ingram points out that once the NSCDA secured the Burgin-Wright House at the end of the 1930s, “they handed it to the city to be used for the war effort.” So, the house spent WWII as an officer’s lounge before it became a house museum in 1951.  

But the television aficionado in Ingram is electrified by some even more direct parallels: “Burgwin-Wright House is the city’s first jail,” he says. “The first image that you see in America in season four with Claire and Jamie is a noose on the streets of Wilmington! That would have been our site. That is the reason Burgwin-Wright is the perfect place to do this because you are seeing our history on the screen.”  

After starting the podcast, Ingram has connected with many of the celebrities that are part of the popular series, including Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander books, Maril Davis, Co-executive Producer of the Outlander TV show, and the show’s actors like Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser.

Of course, Ingram is the first to acknowledge that Outlander is fiction. “It is a historical fiction romance that weaves in real history,” he says. “It is still a story that uses real history for its own story.” For all the excitement that Outlander generates, “really, the podcast was not about telling Outlander’s history; it was about acknowledging Outlander as a vehicle.” 

Episode topics include colonial medicine, the battle of Moore’s Creek, the Scottish Highlanders immigrating to North Carolina and Fort Johnston, to name just a few. “We’ve done things on William Tryon, who is an eventual villain in Outlander—and the second to last Royal Governor in North Carolina—who starts his tenure here in the Cape Fear in Brunswick Town,” Ingram points out. “The Stamp Act rebellion is a great conversation that we have every day—how this was a brutal cruel system,” he adds. “As I say on my tours: it’s not just taxes and tea, it’s treatment; and it’s why it leads to the Bill of Rights after we win that war to outlaw cruel and unusual punishment.” 

From Airwaves to Pavement: The Podcast Comes Alive

Podcasting can, at times, be a lonely endeavor. An episode is recorded, edited and sent out into the world without its creators knowing if listeners are truly connecting with the work. But for Ingram, “Outlander in the Cape Fear” has flipped the script on that experience as many listeners flock to the Burgwin-Wright House hoping to meet him in person.

“I might not see those people when I’m recording, staring at a wall with my cat right over my shoulder,” he chuckles. 

Since the show, Ingram has also been approached by Outlander North Carolina to offer “history-focused, Outlander-inspired” themed tours and events. Their flagship event, Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming, will be held in Ferguson, NC, this October. But Outlander’s reach is farther than the mountains, so Ingram’s work is a perfect fit.

“This summer I created an Outlander-themed walking tour of downtown Wilmington to talk about the history,” he says. “So, we get to pull the podcast topics off the airwaves, put them on the actual roads! And that has blossomed into doing river cruises. This region would not have its Scottish history if not for the Cape Fear River.”  

When Wilmington Water Tours approached Ingram about an Outlander-themed cruise of the Cape Fear River, the first cruise sold out within days. (A few more have been added to the schedule for the fall). For Ingram, it’s a perfect tie-in. “We did an episode about the Cape River which was essential to the Outlander story. They don’t always show how long it takes to travel the Cape Fear River in the Colonial region, but it was the highway. I wanted to talk about how that had changed.” 

It’s safe to say the podcast and Outlander-themed tours have left an indelible impact on the way people engage with colonial North Carolina’s heritage. Illuminating historical realities through fictional tales, locals and visitors can experience the streets and riverways of present-day Wilmington in a whole new light. 

You can access the “Burgwin-Wright Presents: Outlander in the Cape Fear” podcast via the Podcasts app or at 

Burgwin-Wright House
224 Market St.
Wilmington, NC 28401
Open Monday - Saturday 10am to 4pm

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