Despite rumors to the contrary prompted by population figures released recently, the north-central Montana community of Hingham still exists.

"I guess it looks like we're trying to keep everybody out of here," said Hingham Mayor Joe Raunig when informed that the U.S. Census Bureau listed his town's 1990 population at zero, zilch, zip.In fact, Raunig said, his town may even have gained a few residents since the 1980 census, when its population was 186.

"The last population form I filled out about four or five months ago showed 196 people," he said in a telephone interview. "That could be off nine or 10 people by now."

Hingham is a community along U.S. Highway 2 in the heart of a dryland wheat- and barley-raising area.

Its one-block "business district" consists of one service station, a combination grocery store-bar, and a fertilizer company. It also has a grain elevator, a clinic, and a gymnasium.

Raunig and others said they don't know why the Census Bureau figures show Hingham is a ghost town.