HAVERHILL — When people raise money for a cause, they usually stand in front of stores and hold a collection can or maybe ask residents to sponsor them in a walk or road race.
But if you're in charge of maintaining a cemetery where local paranormal enthusiasts say a ghost head was seen coming out of a hill, you could hold a ghost hunt and charge people to take part. That's what's going to happen Saturday night when members of the Essex County Ghost Project and Pelham Paranormal Research investigate Hilldale Cemetery with the expert assistance of celebrity psychic Gavin Cromwell and paranormal researcher, historian and psychic Fiona Broom.
"With so many local organizations looking to raise money for good causes, we thought it was time to tap a different base of people," said Thomas Spitalere, president of the Hilldale Cemetery board of trustees. "With ghost hunting as popular as it is today, we thought it would be great to offer this kind of event."
He said all the money raised through the sale of tickets will go directly to the Hilldale Cemetery Association's cemetery maintenance and restoration fund.
For more than a month, association members and volunteers have worked to improve the property by clearing paths filled with debris, removing weeds and resetting toppled gravestones.
"By raising money, it will help us purchase additional tools and maybe hire a landscaping company to help clear one section in the back," said association member Andrew Whittier, 18, of Haverhill. "We want to put up a fence to keep kids from crossing the train tracks and getting into the cemetery, where they've been knocking over headstones."
Spitalere said a photographer from his ghost-hunting group took a photo that she and some members believe show the ghostly head of a man emerging from a hillside in the cemetery. He said local people tell other stories of apparitions there.
The Saturday event will begin at 6 p.m. at the Sons of Italy Lodge on Washington Street, where participants will enjoy appetizers and learn about the historic cemetery and plans for its future. Broom will lead a brief workshop on ghost hunting.
The investigation at Hilldale Cemetery begins about 8 p.m., and ends around midnight.
"We'll be searching for signs of paranormal activity using various devices, including cameras that we hope will capture images of spirits or other light anomalies such as orbs," said Spitalere, who founded the Essex County Ghost Project.
Participants may bring cameras, audio and video recorders, dowsing rods, crystals or other tools or devices commonly used in paranormal investigations.
Cromwell and Broom have led other paranormal investigations in the area this year, including a cemetery tour in Haverhill on March 27, and an investigation at the Tenney Gatehouse in Methuen on April 4.
Spitalere said Cromwell and Broom have donated their time and expertise to Saturday's fundraiser.
The Essex County Ghost Project will donate future ghost hunt fundraisers to interested nonprofit organizations in Haverhill, Spitalere said.