ROSS Lo Monaco is one of the most successful defence barristers this city has ever seen. It's been said there's a reason why Rockhampton has one of the lowest conviction rates in the state, and the reason, at least in part is due to his defence.
If you're in trouble and Lo Monaco is in the room, you want him on your team.
He is formidable as he tears witness accounts to shreds and paces the courtrooms with his only purpose to win the minds of the judge and jury, seemingly fearless in his approach.
But is he fearless?
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Maybe the courtroom doesn't frighten him, but as he heads back to his office in the old Supreme Court building, especially after dark, no amount of tough talk, bluff or university degrees can hold back the forces said to lurk inside those walls.
Lo Monaco says he's not sure if he believes in ghosts, but he's not willing to take the chance.
His office is linked to the old holding cell by a doorway. Today that cell is a filing room where the walls still show the old drawings of troopers and police dating back to the early 1900s.
But the doorway is long gone.
Lo Monaco says the one ghost that couldn't be exorcised is said to still lurk in the old cell, so he's put a bookcase against the doorway to block access to his office.
"I'd rather have something there," he said.
And he's not the only one.
Fellow barrister, Jordan Ahlstrand tried desperately to locate photographs on his laptop showing 'orbs' - small bubble-like images on the photographs.
"I did some research and orbs are meant to denote a spiritual presence," Ahlstrand said.
"If any building lends itself to being haunted, it's this one."
He says there were half a dozen on photos taken in his office and in the courtroom where people were sentenced to death, there were dozens of them.
No-one can really explain why there were so many; only three people were sentenced to death in the Old
Rockhampton Supreme Court.
According to Ross Lo Monaco and Jordan Ahlstrand, the building was blessed twice by a high ranking clergy from the Anglican Church in Rockhampton.
Ahlstrand was involved in the second blessing.
"On the day, there were two guys given notice to go to the police station to give fingerprints, but they mistakenly ended up in the old Supreme Court building," he said.
"They heard all this Latin chanting and goings on…next thing this guy comes out in robes blessing the hall.
"They s*#! themselves and got the hell out of here."
But for all the blessings, there was still that one ghost in the holding cell that refused to budge.
Although he was 'confirmed' to be male, most of the stories involve female spirits.
In one account, a very perturbed woman sitting in the reception area asked the receptionist who was the woman sitting in the foyer crying, but there was no-one there.
The old jury room was said to be a 'problem room' though its current tenant reputedly spends all hours of the day and night there and has never seen anything.
Of the 15 people who work in the building, no-one has had a personal experience with a wayward spirit, but it seems that everyone has heard of someone who has.
Ross Lo Monaco recalled the experience of lawyer John Siganto who was in the library late one night when books started falling off the shelves.
"He said he got the hell out of there and never went back on his own late at night.
"And he's a serious bloke, he's not the sort of guy who…
"And an associate to a district court judge talks about being here one night and seeing something in black flying from one end of the courtroom to another…but I remember thinking at the time that he could have been drunk."
But despite no solid evidence, the stories continue and have done for decades.
"The shorthand reporting bureau was at the back of the building and one of those girls told me she was working back late one night typing transcripts and a lady in black suddenly walked in and stood there and just looked at her," Lo Monaco said.
"When she looked back she walked out. She doesn't know who she was, but she thinks she was a ghost."
Lo Monaco himself keeps an open mind, not convinced that ghosts are real but he still says he's not prepared to take a punt.
"I'm not frightened, but I prefer not to come into the building after dark, unless there's people here," he said.
"I find the whole thing spooky.
"The whole building is like something out of ghost busters, there's just a spookiness about the place. It might all be in the mind, I don't know but…"
And he continues with his guided tour.
"The other story I keep hearing is the stairwell. People have felt like they've been pressed against a shield, others have been pushed," he said.
"But you always hear these stories from someone else.
"I heard that happened when they were renovating - a tradesman walked out and refused to come back after he was pushed on the stairwell when there was no-one there.
"I've never been pushed, but it doesn't hurt to hold onto the hand rail."
Venerable Dr Rob Philp, retired Archdeacon of the Anglican Church told Rocky Life that exorcisms were still performed but they were kept 'pretty close to the chest' and not usually publicised.
He said although he had been in Rockhampton for 50 years he knew nothing of the Old Supreme Court exorcisms.
"I couldn't think of anyone who would know how or what to do. The modern clergy don't know too much about that sort of thing as a rule," he said.
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