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Final two 'Dark La Crosse Stories' episodes tell tale of fabled recluse

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'Celebrated Recluse'

Mary Ann Parker left the house that still stands at 117 8th St N. in La Crosse to a local church after her death in 1901. The woman was known as a local recluse who kept to herself in her home just down the street from this one, and shocked residents when she left much of her will to the community.

The final two episodes of the Dark La Crosse Stories podcast will air over the next two weeks, and will retell the story of a recluse from the city’s past, and the rumors that surrounded her.

The episodes detail a hunt for the truth about Mary Ann Parker, a resident of La Crosse who died at the age of 83 in 1901 — an event which magnified the curiosity the community had for her life.

Jenny DeRocher mug

DeRocher

Parker was dubbed by papers after her death as a “celebrated recluse,” a strange woman who had been holed up in her house at the corner of 8th and State Streets ever since her husband died. That’s why it was surprising when the woman no one really knew left nearly all of her money to the community, including a home that she donated to a local church and still stands at 117 Eighth St. N.

But there’s much more to the story.

This two-part story, “A Celebrated Recluse,” will air in two separate episodes on Tuesdays, Sept. 21 and Sept. 28.

It’s a story entangled in rumors, scandal, family secrets, poison and sensationalism, that also dissects the media’s role in the murkiness of Parker’s life and the historical blindspots their reports left for the archival record.

Scott Brouwer mug

Scott Brouwer

Jenny DeRocher, associate librarian at the La Crosse Public Library Archives who helped uncover Parker’s story, said it was one “one of the most frustrating research projects” she had worked on.

The La Crosse Tribune has partnered with the La Crosse Public Library to produce what will be 50 total podcast and video productions retelling some of the most sordid stories of the city’s past. These final two episodes will conclude this installment of the Dark La Crosse Stories series — for now.

“After more than eight years of researching, writing, planning, performing, producing and sharing the walking tours, trolley tours, stage productions and now this collaborative video series with the La Crosse Tribune, we’re going to take a break from creating new content,” said Scott Brouwer, archivist with the La Crosse Public Library.

“We do, however, still have plenty of stories to tell and we find new ones all the time while researching other things,” Brouwer said, “so our current plan is to continue the Dark La Crosse Stories series with new episodes at some point in the future.”

Anita Taylor Doering

Anita Taylor Doering

“I have really enjoyed putting the work into finding and telling these stories to the community,” said senior archivist Anita Taylor Doering.

“Personally, I find joy in discovering new stories and following the leads to their conclusion, but it is even more rewarding to engage with others who appreciate learning of these events,” she said. “For while there is often scandal and tragedy, these incidents often wound up being the catalyst that improved the safety and lives of the people of La Crosse.”

You can listen and watch to the final episodes at LaCrosseTribune.com, at the La Crosse Tribune YouTube page, as well as on some podcast streaming services.

Dark La Crosse Stories: Series chronicles our city's nefarious history

And that's a wrap. Dark La Crosse hits 50 episodes. Here's the entire series, and the history. 

In 2013, the La Crosse Public Library Archives developed and began offering a downtown walking tour tied to “darker” or seedier themed happenings in downtown La Crosse from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, presented in an entertaining way.

The overwhelming success of the walking tour led to a partnership with Explore La Crosse to offer a trolley tour of largely the same content with one additional story. These continue to be offered in the summer and tickets can be reserved through Explore La Crosse.

An outgrowth of the walking tour, the "Dark La Crosse Show" is an annual stage production that offers audiences new stories each fall and is a fundraiser for the Library. Attendees are immersed in original music based on historical context and mood, historical photographs and newspaper clippings projected on a large screen, and the geographical reach of the stories is expanded beyond the downtown core.

The La Crosse Public Library Archives is pleased to partner with the La Crosse Tribune on Dark La Crosse Stories, the latest iteration of Dark La Crosse content. Complete with the original music, historic photographs and newspaper headlines featured in the stage production, each episode of Dark La Crosse Stories also features new bonus material from the research team.

Advisory: Content not recommended for children 15 and younger.

To subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, click here.

To subscribe to the podcast on Google Play, click here.

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