MISSOULA — As difficult as it may be to believe, there were no ancient Egyptian artifacts neither a sarcophagus nor a mummy found in Missoula's South Hills.
In fact, the man who claimed to have found the artifacts in a Missoulian classified ad that ran Monday and Tuesday said he didn't even know how to spell sarcophagus when he decided to pull off the hoax.
The ad read, "Found: Ancient Egyptian Sarcophagus w/mummy & other important artifacts. S. Hills area,'' followed by a Los Angeles-area telephone number.
It was just one of many bogus "found'' ads placed in newspapers throughout the country in the last couple of months by Rory Emerald, aka Julian Lee Hobbs.
Emerald, a 38-year-old Michigan native who said he's a stay-at-home dad and artist in Anaheim, Calif., calls himself a "professional hoaxster extraordinaire'' and has the record to prove it.
In June 1990, major news sources including the Associated Press falsely reported that Hobbs which Emerald said is his birth name was dating actress Elizabeth Taylor. In January 1993, he was arrested for posing as actress Mia Farrow's personal shopper and trying to take $10,050 worth of merchandise from a Beverly Hills store.
More recently, Emerald's been placing the false found ads at a rate of about one per week, but only in newspapers that run them for free, he said.
"Otherwise, I don't consider it a hoax,'' he said. "They'll run anything you say if you pay.''
Emerald includes his Los Angeles phone number in the advertisements, which never run in more than one paper. He tells callers it's a joke, and they usually think it's funny, he said.
"When I do this, it makes people laugh,'' he said. "It makes people think. People are curious by nature.''
Emerald places the ads to try to brighten people's days, and it seems to have worked in Missoula, he said. As of noon Wednes-day, everyone who'd called about the ad whether from Missoula or as far away as the United Kingdom thought it was funny, he said.
He chose Missoula because he thought people here might need cheering up, he said.
"I heard you had fires going on there and people are probably kind of down and out about that,'' he said.