By Gillian Flynn
Updated August 13, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

HEX APPEAL And the Blair Witch Project craze continues. The latest victim: Burkittsville, Md., the real-life town referenced in the film as the center of the supernatural action. Following the indie thriller’s phenomenal success, the tiny burg (pop. 214) has been flooded with curiosity seekers. A number of confused souls want to help search for Witch’s three missing student filmmakers: The sheriff’s department has received calls from para-psychologists, occultists, and a mom from England whose kids want to fly over to investigate. The situation’s so bad that a phone message at town hall begins, ”If you’re calling in regards to The Blair Witch Project, it is fiction!” Not that that has deterred die-hard devotees, who’ve taken to holding candlelight vigils at the local graveyard, prompting police to make nightly rounds to roust them. If anything, residents seem amused by their newfound popularity. ”People come here thinking Burkittsville is actually bigger than it is,” says town treasurer Michele Beller, ”that we have all these amenities. Like restaurants. And a store. And stuff like that. We don’t.” Sounds like the perfect spot for a Planet Hollywood. — Gillian Flynn

TEED OFF A word of warning to the networks: Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but don’t flatter Nike too much. Last week the sneaker giant complained to NBC that a 30-second promo spot for The Mike O’Malley Show, featuring O’Malley repeatedly whiffing at a plastic ball with a Wiffle ball bat, was too close for comfort to the buzz-generating Nike clip of Tiger Woods Hacky Sacking a golf ball on a club. After airing the O’Malley ad only four times the night of July 28, NBC yanked it. Although a Nike rep wouldn’t comment, an NBC spokesperson says, ”Nike asked us to pull the spots, and we complied.” It’s not the first time Nike has been overprotective. After the ’98 Super Bowl, NBC had to pull Working promos that poked fun at Nike’s solemnly empowering ”I Can” campaign; the spots had Fred Savage pressing his face to a copier while intoning ”I can photocopy my face.” Nike said they distorted the inspirational messages of its ads. For his part, O’Malley suggests a compromise: ”A Wiffle ball and bat are prime weekend-warrior sports tools — exactly what most people who wear Nike do for fun. So I’d love to talk to Nike about a sponsorship deal.” — Will Lee

BARE FETE Word of advice to Hollywood partygoers: Next time you’re invited to a Renny Harlin shindig, don’t stress about what to wear. At a private bash the director hosted at his home July 26 to celebrate Deep Blue Sea, he stripped down to nothing and jumped into the pool. The frolicking Finn exhorted his guests to follow suit — so to speak — which many did. ”It is a Finnish tradition,” says Harlin’s publicist. ”You take a sauna and then jump in the pool or lake naked. They’re very hardy people. That’s how [they] have a good time.” Gee, what do you think he’d do if he ever won an Oscar?