BALTIMORE -- Wedged between an elevated expressway and Johns Hopkins University here is a working-class neighborhood that has been doing battle with the outside world. Some say Hampden has always been that way. Others maintain the trouble cropped up only in the last two months, ever since someone took out the windows of a black family's row house with rocks.

The episode, as well as a subsequent bomb threat, has brought a steady flow of outsiders to an established and virtually all-white community that takes pride in its insularity. First came the police, who parked a cruiser in front of the family's door on Keswick Road and have kept a prominent, protective vigil there ever since. They were followed by packs of reporters, FBI agents and U.S. marshals bearing court subpoenas for a grand jury investigation of the threats.

And along with the harsh spotlight of publicity and around-the-clock surveillance have come other unwelcome visitors: men carrying applications for the Maryland Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

According to several residents, men distributing Klan literature have been trying to recruit members in Hampden for the last four weeks, hoping to capitalize on the community's history of racial tensions.

Although Baltimore is a city of distinctive racial and ethnic neighborhoods, Hampden occupies a special place. In recent years this community of tidy houses, front stoops and American cars has achieved notoriety because of well-publicized hostilities that have erupted between blacks and whites.

In the weeks since Baltimore police began standing guard in front of the black family's home, the community has been labeled as racist, with a Baltimore talk show host referring to its residents as "white trash" during a recent call-in show.

Last year, Hampden was in the spotlight after a racially divided melee erupted at the Robert Poole Middle School and sent nine pupils to the hospital.

The most recent incident centers on a black family who moved to Hampden seven weeks ago. After moving their furniture in at the end of April, they returned a week later to find that most of the windows had been smashed.

On the night of May 9, an upstairs bedroom window was broken by another rock, and on May 17 a living room window was broken in the same way, according to a police report of the incidents. A few days later, the police moved in after hearing that someone was planning to bomb the house.

Eric Boyce-Bey, 25, whose family is the target of the alleged rock-throwing and harassment, said he has heard accusations from residents that he was planted in Hampden by black groups seeking to integrate the area since he and his wife Caroline, 21, and three children, moved there. He flatly denied the charges, and said that affordable, safe housing, not a conpiracy, brought him to Hampden.

"I'll be damned if I would jeopardize my children and my wife by knowingly moving to a place where the people are so extreme in their racial prejudice," he said.

In Hampden, the Boyce-Beys were conspicuous from the start. Hampden has a population of 10,000, of whom 99 percent are white.

The FBI has interviewed dozens of Hampden residents and the U.S. attorney's office is entering the third week of a grand jury investigation. No arrests have been made.

Boyce-Bey maintains that he did not ask the police to guard his home or contact news organizations about his situation.

If the Boyse-Beys' experience in Hampden reflects a deeper sentiment among residents, it is a loathing of outsiders, and a belief that the community's parochial ways, unless closely guarded, may soon be gone.

"No, they are not welcome here," Howard Hyle, a lifelong Hampden resident, said about the Boyce-Bey family. "No one has anything against them personally. But look at everywhere else in this city where you used to have white people living. I used to live up in Pimlico {in northwest Baltimore}. Look at that place. A white man couldn't even walk in there without dying . . . . I mean, I don't want this place to turn like that."

" 'Leave me the hell alone' -- You will find that's the attitude of 90 percent of the people who live here," said George Rumsley, who said his home town has been done "a great disservice" by media accounts of the investigation into the rock-throwing incidents. "They have enough problems without getting mixed up in that garbage. We don't need the KKK. We don't need the NAACP. We don't need NOW."

Despite the strongly held views about their desire to keep the community's familiar ways, many residents interviewed said they didn't relish the community's image. And they were disheartened at reports that supporters of the Klan might be organizing there -- passing out literature that includes the intricate Maryland Knights of the Ku Klux Klan letterhead, Klan bylaws, a membership application, and a Klan oath of allegiance.

Attempts to reach Maryland Klan officials were unsuccessful.

Although it could not be verified that those circulating literature were official Klan members, Mira Boland, fact-finding director of the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, said the activities in Hampden are consistent with the KKK's "standard techniques of hoping to find white backlash that they can latch onto."

Rumsley saw a man talking to two young men on a corner and said, "I've lived here my whole life, and I'll tell you that guy does not live here. You know where he's from? He's Ku Klux Klan, and the only ones who are going to suffer from him being here are the people in this neighborhood."

Others simply wanted to disavow any connection between the community and the Klan.

"I wouldn't know a Klansman if I was standing next to him, and I've lived here my whole life," said Hyle, 39, a second-generation Hampden resident.

Last week, a group of Keswick Road residents sat and discussed the emotions behind the recent events, describing what it's like to have a closely knit family invaded by strangers with cameras, FBI helicopters and speeding police cars.

"There aren't no racists in this room," said Vernon Fair, the patriarch of three generations of Hampden residents, during an interview. "The people around here are very fearful. When my wife was in the hospital, the people around here cut our grass, they cooked our meals and made sure the kids got off to school all right. That's the kind of community this is, and there aren't many communities like that left."

"Why don't they put anything in there about what the blacks did when they came into this neighborhood?" added Fair's son, Ronald, 34. "Last summer, they shot a 12-year-old kid, right here in this neighborhood . . . . The people around here haven't ever had to deal with black people in this neighborhood."

The Rev. John L. Wright, president of the Maryland conference of the NAACP, denied suggestions that his organization had set up the family in Hampden as an attempt to integrate the community.

"We try to stay away from that kind of thing. You don't want to create tension if you don't have to," Wright said. "You don't have to go out and look for trouble."

Meanwhile, the Boyce-Beys last week announced that they planned to leave Hampden. Some Hampden residents said it is none too soon. They are weary from feeling "under siege," as one resident put it, and eager to put the events to rest.