Two members of St. John's city council believe a controversial recruitment ad for a massage parlour may be a prank.

Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff and one other councillor would not say why, but told CBC News they have good reason to believe the flyers looking for hostesses to work at a downtown home are part of a hoax.

The flyers were posted at Memorial University, and were aimed at young women who were willing to provide "company and a relaxing massage" while working nude or in lingerie.

The flyers were connected to a company that described itself as Sherry's Sugar Shack, a company name that is not listed in the Newfoundland and Labrador government's Registry of Companies. No company by that name is registered with the City of St. John's, either.

Lisa Murphy, an executive member of Memorial's student union, said the ads were not funny, whether or not a hoax is involved.

"We still think that the idea of going after young women and taking advantage of the possible financial vulnerability is a little bit disturbing, that someone would even think that was funny," she said.

She said the posters disturbed some students, and that a complaint was filed with the university's sexual harassment office.

"Students have been taking down the posters themselves because they're offended by them," Murphy said.

The phone number used for the company is listed to a Gower Street address, which is listed in the Yellow Pages as Gower Manor.

A city official did say a complaint was filed about the address in November, because a citizen was concerned that the home was being used for hotel overflow.

The city brought in an inspector and found no evidence of a violation.