Paramount Pictures' "Ghost," which opened in early July, just won't vanish. Two weeks ago - its 18th week - it even jumped 34 percent over the previous week, coming in third for the week with grosses of $4.3 million. Its take to date: more than $186 million, making it the year's top-grosser.

To investigate the "Ghost" phenomenon, Paramount has taken out classified ads in a handful of papers looking for fans who have seen the film six or more times. There have been hundreds of responses, says a studio spokesman, "and they're still coming in."Many of those surveyed gushed about the love story. Some said they were intrigued by the theme. A number singled out Whoopi Goldberg's performance as the clairvoyant who reunites ghostly Patrick Swayze with earthly love Demi Moore.

We talked to a few of the "Ghost" fans directly:

- Julie Richey, mother of two and an insurance property examiner, plans on seeing it for the 18th time. "It's really strange, isn't it? I think that before, the most I'd ever seen a film was five times - back when I was a teen-ager. I'm in my mid-30s now. Who'd have guessed this would happen? My husband says, `Oh no, not again!' "

She says she loves the story - "the idea of what happens after death" - and the performances, especially Swayze's. "I think this is a case where everyone was well-cast. And the story, well, it makes you feel so good. One time when I saw it, a man sitting in front of me - a total stranger - turned around at the end and said, `They should make more movies like this.' Of course, I agree."

- Nelson Meza, a bank section manager, has seen it eight times. "It's a great fantasy that seems totally real. That's what you go to see a movie for, isn't it? It reminds me of some of the films of the '30s. You leave it feeling great."

- Susan Irvin, a nurse, has racked up a dozen screenings. "I've had a lot of deaths in my family this past year - eight people who were close to me. Because of the way the movie presents death, it's been so comforting - it's actually helped me to deal with a lot of things.

"I love the love story, too. I love the idea that love enables people to go on - and that the people you knew and loved are still out there, somewhere . . . even helping you to go on."

"Ghost" has even made its way into lectures. Marianne Williamson, who teaches what she calls "A Course in Miracles" - "spiritual psychotherapy" - through the Los Angeles Center for Living in California, says she sometimes mentions both "Ghost" and "Flatliners" because of the issues they raise regarding death.

She attributes "Ghost's"' popularity, in part, to her belief that it "validates the deeper convictions of the heart - that a relationship is more than two bodies coming together, it's the joining of two hearts."

Williamson, who counsels an HIV-positive AIDS support group, saw the film with her group - which gave it a thumbs-up. "Everybody loved it. Because it's about the triumph of love, beyond death, beyond the body. When you think about it, love is really what everyone wants."

Still on 1,713 screens, "Ghost" will stay in the marketplace, says Paramount, "as long as it continues to make money."

At present, the studio says there are no tangible plans for a "Ghost II." - PAT H. BROESKE

- Handling the Pressure:

HOLLYWOOD - When director Luis Mandoki ("White Palace") dropped out of the Steve Roth-Universal production of "Mobsters" a few weeks ago, Michael Karbelnikoff got the break he's been working toward for 15 years.

The veteran director of TV spots for Levi's 501 jeans, Bud Light and other products was picked to step in, and now faces the pressure of directing a name cast - and his first feature.

Sources say that Christian Slater will play gangster Lucky Luciano in the big-budget production, due to start shooting next month, with Patrick Dempsey as Meyer Lansky, Richard Grieco as Bugsy Siegel and a female love interest yet to be cast (sources say Emily Lloyd and Uma Thurman are among top contenders).

"It's more overwhelming than normal because I came into it late," says Karbelnikoff, referring to his three-week pre-production time, "but I have a great support system around me."

Karbelnikoff's feature-film directing experience is limited to an uncompleted one-hour project that he financed himself, but he still expresses confidence.

"If I don't take this moment, and make it the best thing that ever happened in my life, then I'm a fool," he says. "Getting scared and all that is not what I've been in film 15 years to do." - KEVIN KOFFLER

- The Also-Rans:

Nearly two dozen new titles will be battling it out for ticket sales between now and Christmas. Which means a slew of fall releases will have to give up their screens.

Among those that will disappear with hardly a trace at the box office:

-"White Hunter, Black Heart" (Warners), $2.3 million, 59 days.

-"Funny About Love" (Paramount), $8.1 million, 52 days.

-"Narrow Margin" (Tri-Star), $10.6 million, 52 days.

-"Miller's Crossing" (Fox), $4.5 million, 51 days.

-"I Come in Peace" (Triumph), $4.3 million, 45 days.

-"King of New York" (New Line), $2 million, 45 days.

-"State of Grace" (Orion), $2 million, 45 days (no longer being tracked).

-"Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael" (Paramount), $4 million, 41 days.

-"Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones" (Warners), $735,092, 38 days.

-"Texasville" (Columbia), $2.2 million, 38 days (no longer being tracked).

-"The Hot Spot" (Orion), $1.2 million, 31 days.

-"Night of the Living Dead" (Columbia), $5.6 million, 24 days.

-"The Desperate Hours" (MGM-UA), $2.6 million, 17 days (no longer being tracked).

And, though Prince's "Graffiti Bridge" (Warners) is only in its third week, prepare for a quick disappearing act - it dropped 66 percent in Week 2. Grosses after 10 days: $3.7 million. - PAT H. BROESKE

- Cinefile:

Resuming his film career after departing CBS' "Wiseguy," Ken Wahl will play a sculptor caught in both a romantic triangle and a conflict with his artist-father in Ion Pictures' "The Stoneman." Wahl, currently finishing a role in Nelson Films' "The Favor" - which also stars Elizabeth McGovern, Harley Jane Kozak and Bill Pullman - starts "The Stoneman" Jan. 17 in Los Angeles Dimitri Logothetis will direct for producers Nabeel Y. Zahid and Joseph Medawar. Mitchell Calder and Allen Howard wrote the script.

Martin Sheen has signed to star in two films for writer-director Clyde Ware's Ashby Productions.

In "Rough Diamond," Sheen will star as an ex-high school football hero now working in the West Virginia coal mines. When insurance won't pay for his wife's dental bills, he considers robbing a mine payroll. In "Cass," inspired by Nicholas Ray's 1950 classic "In a Lonely Place," Sheen is a Hollywood film maker whose reputation for violence and womanizing makes him a murder suspect.