Splashed across a half page of The Wall Street Journal of last Sept. 28 was an eye-catching advertisement heralding the wonders of something called "Dr. Cristofv's Anti-Fatigue Device."

The ad offered "worldwide exclusive area distributorships" for the device, which when used indoors "reproduces . . . the positive electronic field that has encircled the earth."

The device comes in two varieties - handy "fist-size" for use in cars, trucks and airplanes, and "shoebox-size" to "retard fatigue for a roomful of typists, draftsmen and assemblyline workers." While the ad never quite explained how the device, which sells for about $150, performs its magic, it promised the user "a feeling of well being."

For a select group of cognoscenti familiar with the history of the device, the feeling of well-being probably ebbed as soon as they reached the ad's third paragraph: "Retired Air Force Col. Herb Schwartzman purchased the rights to the device in 1967 and delivered 600 of them to the Israeli government for use in their planes and tanks during the six day war."

Herbert S. Schwartzman, 56, formerly No. 136759 at the Ossining Correctional Facility (aka Sing Sing), is not your average Wall Street Journal advertiser. Nor was he ever a colonel, military records show that he was a 1st lieutenant when he left the Air Force in 1951.

Dr. Cristofv's Anti-Fatigue Device, moreover, is not the average product advertised in the Journal. Back in 1967, for instance, the Food and Drug Administration charged that labels on this same device "contained false and misleading therapeutic claims". This information somehow eluded the Journal's advertising department, which spent a month and a half researching the Cristofv device claims, according to Sam Posman, classified advertising manager for the paper's Eastern edition.

Posman says his staff also apparently missed a 1967 story in The Wall Street Journal itself by staff writer Fred L. Zimmerman reporting that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating suspected stock market manipulation by a company marketing the device. That article also noted that Schwartzman, who was chairman of the company under SEC investigation, "was sentenced in late 1965 to 2 1/2 to 5 years on grand larceny charges."

Clearly the little generator has a florid past. But to learn the intriguing story behind the device and the claims about in the Journal ad, one must begin with the unusual history of its late inventor, a Bulgarian immigrant named Dr. Cristjo Cristofv. "I Saw Him Destroyed"

DR. CRISTOFV was "a great man of the dimensions of Benjamin Franklin," says retired Air Force Col. A. E. Stoll, who adds: "I saw him destroyed by the petty jealousies in the Air Force."

It seems that long before Dr. Cristofv produced his anti-fatigue device, he discovered an electromagnetic phenomenon that always accompanies high-energy explosions. This discovery, which he came upon while doing experiments in 1932 for the Royal Ministry of Defense in Bulgaria, was named the "Cristofv Effect."

The Germans allegedly used the Cristofv Effect to pinpoint the accuracy of V1 and V2 rockets during World War II. In 1947, after escaping the communists, Cristofv met with then Capt. Stoll, an Air Force intelligence officer in Rome. He offered to show the United States how to use his "effect" to detect atomic explosions.

Cristofv made it to this country via Canada, and he apparently impressed the U.S. Air Force with his explanation of the Cristofv Effect. For in 1963, Stoll wrote a letter to Cristofv saying the Air Force would award him its highest decoration, the Exceptional Service Award Stoll earlier had given the decoration privately to Cristofv in Stoll's Bethesda home, but it was returned for the formal presentation that Cristofv evidently had wanted. The letter said the decoration would be presented by the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Curtis E. LeMay.

But on the eve of the official ceremony, questions were raised about Cristofv's past. In once instance, a former Bulgarian who had become an FBI informant accused Cristofv of having been a Gestapo agent in Sofia during World War II. Another informant said the inventor had fallen in with the communists after the war and was a security risk.

So Cristofv was summoned before something called the Industrial Personnel Access Authorization Screen Board. A review of the transcript of his interview indicates the board failed to substantiate the allegations, and Cristofv was cleared.

"But of course it was already too late for the Air Force to reschedule the award, so the Air Force pretended it had not been approved," recalls a bitter Col. Stoll in a telephone conversation from his retirement home in Black Forest, Colo.

This government Indian-giving episode, however, did not deter Herb Schwartzman from declaring without qualification in the Journal ad that Cristofv was "a world-renowned scientist who received the Exceptional Service Award."

Although Cristofv may have been renowned, his pocket-book never reflected it. Having reportedly made a fortune in Bulgaria, Cristofv came to the West with a rich man's appetite. So it was not surprising that in the late 1960s, after years of living in frustrating modesty, he was impressed by Schwartzman's boasts that he could make them both rich by marketing Cristofv's latest invention, which was patented in 1967. "He Gave Me a Song and Dance"

SOME SCIENTISTS believe the electric power field surrounding the earth helps determine human moods and behavior. When the atmosphere is charged, as it is after a lightning storm, they note, humans tend to feel alert and revitalized.

Cristofv's device claims to keep the atmosphere charged inside cars or rooms or planes to give persons in those places an uplift. But the president of a small company doing research and development work with electric fields warns: "It will take years of expensive research with humans before the Food and Drug Administration will ever allow health claims to be made for such devices."

While this same executive claims the Cristofv patent has merit, he says it can be easily circumvented. Moreover, he says that the device advertised was only part of the one patented - the generator.

In 1967, Schwartzman formed a company to sell distributorships for the Cristofv Anti-Fatigue Device. One engineer who was hired by Schwartzman to design the device recalls that the initial models were made out of playing card boxes. Some burned up, he says, while others placed in the ceiling of cars made the occupants ill. "It usually happened in cars with weak batteries," he recalls. This charge would run around the car wiring and up to the field above the people's heads. It gave weird signals to those underneath it."

The Wall Street Journal ad refers to important sounding test done on the device, but the results of the tests, which were done in the 1960s, were nothing to advertise.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Flickinger got a shock when he saw the Journal ad, because in the 1960s he arranged for Cristofv's device to be tested for possible use by the military. "He gave me a song and dance about the effects on pilots of ionization of the atmosphere," he says of Cristofv. Flickinger calls the claim in the ad that it has been used in space exploration "false" and the suggestion that the devices had been placed in U-2 reconnaissance planes "absolutely wrong."

Flickinger had sent Cristofv and his device to Lockheed Corp.'s testing facility at Burbank, Calif. According to Dr. C. I. Barron of Lockheed, who ran the tests: "We were never able to verify the claims that it allayed fatigue."

A former employe of Schwartzman's in the 1960s says there were contracts to manufacture $10 million worth of the devices. But nobody knows how many of them were actually sold. Seized by the FDA

WHAT HAPPENED to the device between the late 1960s and late September of this year, when it suddenly reappeared in The Wall Street Journal? The ad says that after incorporating "the device into the space program" and installing it in "long-ranged reconnaissance planes to retard pilot fatigue," the government "then labeled the device as classified, which kept it off the market for public consumption."

In truth, the device appears to have disappeared for quite different reasons. For one thing, the FDA seized several of the devices because of the allegedly fraudulent therapeutic claims.

Then, in September 1967, the SEC suspended trading in a one-employe company shell called Jodmar Industries, Inc, whose stock had soared from 3/8ths to 12 in a brief time. The reason: Jodmar was about to acquire Schwartzman's company and the Cristofv device. The SEC wondered how Jodmar's stock could rise about 2,500 percent - and the paper worth of Schwartzman's company climb to $28.8 million - when not one device had been actually delivered. Another problem: Herb Schwartman, the architect of the merger, was at that time appealing a grand larceny conviction, which he would lose.

In September 1969, Dr. Cristofv died in abject poverty in a Chicago suburb. Shortly after his death, the Chicago Tribune ran a picture of his widow's furniture piled in snow on the front lawn by the local sheriff because she could not pay the rent. In 1971, Herb Schwartzman was paroled after serving 18 months of his grand larceny sentence.

(Schwartzman, it seems, led an unusual life behind prison walls as well. He became a valuable informat for law enforcement authorities, including the New York district attorney and the U.S. Customs Service, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post. Asked about this, Schwartzman says by phone from his Miami office: "You're not going to pull it out of me. I didn't give it to the president, so I'm not going to give it to you. Whatever I did I did for the country.")

Schwartzman's legal problems, however, are continuing. He pleaded guilty in Florida recently to a charge of post-dating checks. A new lawyer he hired claims it was a bad rap, and he is trying to get Dade County circuit court to set aside the guilty plea and the sentence of four weekends in jail and three years' probation.

An FDA official also says that agency "is looking into the advertisement in The Wall Street Journal and also into the promoters" of Dr. Cristofv's Anti-Fatigue Device. But Schwartzman says he still had high hopes for the device, claiming he has commitments to manufacture 600,000 to 700,000 units and would-be distributors flying in from as far away as London. "We weren't prepared for this heavy influx of orders," says Schwartzman. "I've written The Wall Street Journal and told them how happy I am with the results from the ads."