If you are new to La Crosse, or even just visiting, it won't take you long to notice all of the historical markers throughout the city. That's because it has a rich past and stories that need to be told.
La Crosse Public Library Archivists decided to capitalize on the city's passion for history, by putting a unique twist on the way we look at the places we see every day.
"There are quite a lot of murders here, quite a lot of crime, some very interesting sensational trials involving murderers, we have potential ghosts in town here," Scott Brouwer, La Crosse Public Archivist said.
Those "darker" stories in La Crosse's past, are visible in the present. From about 1850 to 1915, Pearl Street served as the city's Red Light District, with about 40-50 brothels operating downtown. Now it is a family-friendly place, but still doesn't hesitate to reference history.
"If you are ever downtown on Pearl Street, look up at the third floor. The owners of The Pearl, TJ and Michelle Peterslie, have played it up a little bit. There are some silhouettes up there, they sometimes will turn on the red lights behind those silhouettes as well," Brouwer said.
As we continued down the street, Brouwer pointed out places filled with scandal, mystery and intrigue...and even the home of one of La Crosse's most famous ghosts.
"Over the years employees and patrons of the Bodega have talked about there being a ghost in Bodega, so much so that they have stories. Somebody has piled up bricks in the basement and when they came back later that work was undone, they here footsteps after its closing, they hear footsteps in the bar in high heels." added Brouwer.
At Dark La Crosse's core isn't sensationalism though, it's getting people out, active and appreciating the community.
"It serves as a couple of different functions," Kelly Krieg-Sigman, La Crosse Public Library Director said. "You get out in the air and get some exercise, and you get a chance to slow down and actually see what your downtown historic buildings really look like."
Each tour connects to audiences, so much so that over a thousand people have taken one in the last two years. After seeing the success of the walking tours, the archivists decided to branch out in to other interactive methods of storytelling.
"We spread out into the trolley tours, which we do with Explore La Crosse in the summers. Then last year we started started the radio show which is a stage production, and that's probably the fullest expression of what we're doing with dark La Crosse. We've dipped in to new material, because we could add a few more stories for the stage production, and every year we are going to try to do a new stage production with fresh content."
The stories told aren't just entertaining either, they're all real.
"It's who we are. It's all true, it's all accurate, it's all been researched, and we have been very careful not to exaggerate," Krieg-Sigman said.
"We do take a little poetic license with the script, but the facts are never changed," added Brouwer.
Due to the mature nature of the content, the La Crosse Public Library doesn't recommend the tours for those 15 and under. Also, for those that can't make the tour, or those that want to re-live the experience, the library offers a recording for a small fee.
If you are ready to cross over to the dark side and get a closer look at La Crosse's history, make sure to check out Dark La Crosse.
For another adventure, make sure to check back next Wednesday for a new episode of Hometown Tourist, and a chance to make the La Crosse area your own.