SHAMOKIN - A true tale of local lore is the basis for a Halloween-themed fundraising event Oct. 20 in Shamokin and Coal Township.

The Grave Robbers Run combines problem-solving challenges with tests of physical endurance in an event modeled after the hit CBS reality television series, "Amazing Race."

It's based off of the history of the missing head found in the Coal Run area just after the turn of the 20th Century. The victim was an Italian man whose business in the Shamokin area remains a mystery, as does his beheading. Some have opined that extortionists of the mafia offshoot Black Hand Society were responsible, but the murder was never solved.

The body and head were found separately, with the head subsequently put on public display in the hopes the victim would be identified. It never happened, and the head remained in the possession of Farrow Funeral Directors for roughly 70 years. Over time it became an object of curiosity for those brave enough to ask for and be granted a sneak peek.

The head was eventually donated to a historical society, Anthracite Heritage Center, which again put it on public display, in part because of the history surrounding its discovery and in part as an attraction to entice people to visit the society headquarters beneath City Hall on Lincoln Street.

When Peter Krehel, the president judge of Northumberland County, saw the head he was appalled and, with the support of county Judge Samuel Ranck, ordered it buried. A legal battle ensued, as did hurt feelings, and the head's whereabouts became a short-term mystery as its repossession was fought against.

In February 1977, seven months after the judge came upon the head and three months after his controversial order, the historical society relented and agreed to have the head buried in an undisclosed location.

That's where the Grave Robbers event picks up. Teams of four will be challenged to find the head; well, a fake version anyway.

The teams will be challenged to find clues and solve riddles and challenges, taking them to different sites throughout the city and township. The final clue will lead to a mock burial site where the head can be unearthed.

The first team to dig up a fake head and return to the event's starting point at Claude Kehler Community Park, Arch and Third streets, will win $200. Second prize is $100. Third prize remains a mystery.

The Grave Robbers Run will be followed by the Grave Robbers Costume Ball on the second floor of Independence Fire Co., Market and Arch streets.

Entry fee for each team is $40, which includes entrance to the ball. Those interested in attending the ball alone are welcome. That cost is $10.

The Grave Robbers Run kicks off at noon, with registration at 11 a.m. at the bandstand. The ball begins at 5 p.m. and includes food and drink, raffles and music.

The events are sponsored by the newly formed Coal City Revitalization Inc., a developing non-profit organization with plans to host community events in the hopes of drumming up business and morale in the Shamokin and Coal Township areas.

Participants can pre-register by calling 205-3572 or emailing, or can register on the day of the event. Halloween costumes are encouraged.