The phantom e-raser strikes again.

Two weeks ago an unidentified person - armed with a brush and a can of brown paint - began wiping out antiquity in Alexandria's historic Old Town district by X-ing out the e's on shopkeepers' signs.

The Olde Towne Flower Shoppe was the first victim. Zorro-style, the vandal zapped the store's sign, leaving x's where the e's once were. Oldx Townx Shoppx.

Elaine's of Olde Towne was transformed overnight into plain old Elaine's of Old Town. The Kitchen Shoppe, an old-English sounding outlet for old fashioned gadgets like Cuisinarts, is now The Kitchen Shop.

The Olde Towne Tennis Shop was hit last weekend. "We don't know who is responsible for this," said manager Marilyn Anderson. "We like the e's. It's part of the town's heritage."

Not so, say the city's official guidebooks. "People like to see the e's on the signs." said Helen Judy, one of Virginia's George Washington Bicentennial travel guides. "The official spelling, however, is Old Town. No e's."

Elizabeth Mclvor, assistant to Alexandria's city manager, thumbed her nose at the quaint spellings shopkeepers insist on using. "These foreigners come in and they think it sounds cute," she said. "The natives of Old Town think it's tacky."

The Olde Towne Woodworker Shoppe hasn't been hit yet. "Bu I'm planning on dropping th'e' anyway," said owner Ray Kuhn. "I just read somewhere that the name did not originally have the e's." Asked why the storeowners keep resurrecting the dropped letter, Kuhn replied, "I guess it sounds Old Time-e."