Show to recall spirit of ghost catcher


October 19, 1998|By DAN RODRICKS

PLEASED I AM to report that Harvey D. Scheetz, one of Maryland's greatest eccentrics, will be remembered in an exhibit in Frederick this month. Harvey was the Santa Claus of Halloween, a big kid who invented wild devices for finding ghosts and taking their pictures. He would cobble together Army and Navy surplus electronic equipment, radar and radio devices, tubes, wires and lights into elaborate machines that hummed and buzzed and flashed. One machine, Harvey asserted with a wink, could capture ghosts. Bulbs on the machine blinked, gauges moved and, at the end of a long, amusing cycle of noise and light, a balloon inflated from a copper tube. Harvey would tie the balloon off and hand it to a child, claiming there was a friendly ghost inside.

Kids loved him. Grown-ups loved him. He was a great, fun-loving kook who died too young - of heart failure, three years ago this month, at 47 - and left behind all manner of gadgets.

Starting Oct. 28, Sally and Steve Colby, who run Off the Deep End antiques on East Street, Frederick, will stage a memorial exhibit featuring "the unearthly inventions of our bud."

They have the HK11 Ghost-Viewing Helmet that Harvey demonstrated for David Letterman on national TV. They have Harvey's Laser Eye Ghost Camera, his alien egg and the time machine that, Harvey claimed, could take us all to another dimension. They have the widely published photograph of Harvey as the Human Flash Bulb. (Before a crowd of about 25 at a high school several years ago, he wore an aviator's helmet covered with bulbs that exploded, for a fraction of a second, into a blinding flash.) He staged the Human Flash Bulb stunt, he told a friend, "to expire the children's minds." He meant "inspire," of course. And that he did.

He made a lot of adults smile along the way, too.

We still miss him.

Traces of 'Beloved'

Just a reminder: The old homestead at 124 Bluestone Road, the setting of the superb Oprah Winfrey-Jonathan Demme film adaptation of Toni Morrison's "Beloved," stands in the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Cecil County. The replica 1840s frame house, corn crib, barn and other outbuildings are still there, six months after production ended. The film opened Friday. "We asked the production company [Utterly Beloved Productions] to leave the buildings in anticipation that it would become an attraction," says Rick Barton, chief of state forests and parks. "They had planned to remove the entire set. We had a wonderful relationship with the company. Fair Hill is a remarkable place."

U.S. Senate in 2000

Hasn't that Bobby Ehrlich been a busy boy? The Republican congressman from Baltimore County is the Mark McGwire of campaign fund-raisers. So far this year, he's been host for 37 of them for GOP candidates from St. Mary's to Frederick counties, and he's doing three more before November. I'd say Ehrlich has built a nice stack of favors that will serve him in a run for Senate in 2000 against incumbent Paul Sarbanes (assuming, of course, Sarbanes decides against retirement).

Officially, Ehrlich says he hasn't made a decision to run for the Senate. Such a decision is a year away.

(Sure, Bobby, we understand. You're just waiting to see what Roscoe Bartlett's going to do first, right?)

Friday, Ehrlich held a breakfast fund-raiser in Hunt Valley for Republican state Senate nominee Andrew Harris. From there, he left for St. Mary's County, where he helped Del. Anthony O'Donnell, the only Republican in the 29th District.

"It's about his running for the U.S. Senate in 2000," said Wade Kach, the Republican state delegate and a colleague of Ehrlich's from northern Baltimore County. "He's well-organized. He's very bright. He knows what he's doing. He stands a great chance of being elected to the U.S. Senate."

County Councilman Doug Riley, a Towson Republican, agreed, but added a proviso: "I don't know how he can know for certain until after the November election. If Ellen Sauerbrey wins, you will know that a Republican can win statewide. Then he will certainly run."

Ehrlich says there's more to the decision than that.

"Whether Ellen can win is one factor. It is relevant. It is not the only factor," he said.

The decision must be made on a personal level by Ehrlich and his wife, Kendel. In addition, much could rest on whether the GOP has a strong presidential candidate in 2000. And raising millions needed for a potential contest against Sarbanes could be tough.

All the trips he's made this year on behalf of other Republicans would likely pay off, he acknowledges, for they should be happy to reciprocate.

"I was tickled to have his help," said David Maier, a Republican state Senate candidate in the 12th District, which covers Catonsville and part of Howard County, far outside Ehrlich's congressional district in eastern Baltimore County, Harford and northern Anne Arundel.

"He's the highest elected official we [Republicans] have in the state," said Wayne Skinner, a Towson Republican County Council candidate who will benefit from a $250-per-couple event Sunday at the Ehrlichs' home. is the e-mail address for columnist Dan Rodricks. The mailing address is 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. The TJI tip line is 410-332-6166. Web browsers are invited to the COLUMNIST BULLETIN BOARD at

Pub Date: 10/19/98

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