The following is an excerpt of an interview of Shaun Jones, the Founder and Director of the Florida Ghost Team (FGT) by Maureen Page, VP Web Marketing of Discount Security Cameras. The Florida Ghost Team is a not for profit organization promoting professional paranormal research and investigation.
Maureen Page: Tell me about what your organization does and your role with the organization?
Shaun Jones: Florida Ghost Team (FGT) is a professional paranormal investigative team. We cover the entire state of Florida. I’m the founder and director. It was founded in 2003 and is still going strong.
Maureen Page: What kind of services do you offer and has that changed over the years?
Shaun Jones: We investigate residential. People contact us from our website if they suspect they have activity in their home. What we do is interview them over the phone and set up a preliminary investigation. At the preliminary investigation a couple members of the team will talk to the client and probably take some base readings. If we feel a formal investigation is warranted we will set up a date and time for that. At the formal investigation we talk to the client and set up our cameras. We try to take some EV, which is Electronic Voice Phenomena, and we try to get photos or videos or anything that points in the direction of paranormal activity.
Everything changes. The more you conduct business you learn along the way. I’ve learned a lot in running the FGT. We are a professional business. We do things by the book, we have bylaws and guidelines that we follow and all the members of the team are expected to abide by those guidelines.
Maureen Page: Why do people care? What is usually the concern? If you find paranormal activity, do they take steps to cleanse the place or do they just want to know? What is usually the client’s goal?
Shaun Jones: They want to know that they are not crazy. They really do. If we find evidence of paranormal activity they say ‘Thank God… I thought I was going crazy’. It’s rare that people want to get rid of it [the spirit] unless it’s something that’s of a negative nature, meaning that they’re really afraid of it and they just want it gone or something is going on that’s causing them to fear it. I find more and more people are really comfortable with it – they don’t want it gone, it’s not bothering them, they just want to know that they’re not crazy. We don’t offer to cleanse people’s homes unless they request it. Then we try to bring someone in that is capable of doing that. For example… we have a pastor on the team, and we have a psychic on the team and they can do blessings and cleansings.
Maureen Page: When you go into a situation like this how often do you find non-paranormal explanations for the experiences?
Shaun Jones: Without a doubt. We scrutinize our evidence and experiences. For example, if I’m in a room with someone and we both hear a loud bang, we will investigate what else was going on in the house, if one of the members or residents is in the house or if there’s something natural like an air conditioner clicking on or off. We look for natural causes for everything. If you look at our website you won’t see a lot of pictures because we won’t just post anything. We won’t post dust or so-called orbs or anything like that. We will only post things that are very unusual that we have no natural explanation for.
Maureen Page: How often in these investigations are you able to prove one way or another whether the experience is paranormal or not? How often are you able to come to a confident conclusion?
Shaun Jones: I would say 50-50. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint. OK for example, one client thought spirits were in their attic. I went outside and noticed there were trees above the house and iguanas running on the roof. So the client had the limb cut down that was overhanging the roof and we ran off the iguanas and there were no more problems. So there are a lot of natural explanations for things that go bump in the night.
Maureen Page: Can you give me an example of one situation that you concluded was paranormal and how did you conclude that?
Shaun Jones: Like I said we scrutinize everything. There were unexplained lights on an investigation one time. We checked for everything. We looked for cars going by (there were none). We drove our own cars by to see if we could reproduce the effect (we couldn’t). There was no TV or absolutely anything that could explain the sudden flashes of light and it was only in one area. No cameras or other equipment were running. There was nothing to explain the light and it would stop as suddenly as it started.
Maureen Page: Did you personally witness these lights yourself?
Shaun Jones: Yes.
Maureen Page: And were you able to photograph or videotape the lights?
Shaun Jones: No. At that time it was a preliminary investigation so no cameras were running. I do find that when we don’t have any cameras running things will happen more often than when we do. We’re talking about human spirits and depending on what time frame they are from they can pretty much figure out what we’re doing and what we’re up to.
Maureen Page: So you think they don’t really want to be photographed, is that what you are saying?
Shaun Jones: That’s my personal, not professional opinion. There are no experts in this field as people like to claim. Well if you’re such an expert then where are they? Where are all the pictures and evidence of the ghosts? If you’re such an expert you should be able to capture all of this.
Maureen Page: So it’s just not that simple.
Shaun Jones: No, it’s not that simple. If it was that simple there would be no need for teams. People would just say “Yeah, there it is.”
Maureen Page: Tell me about what tools you guys use in your investigations?
Shaun Jones: We use EMFs, Electromagnetic Field testers. It is said that spirits emit electromagnetic fields and this is supposed to pick them up. Me personally, you will never see me walking around with any kind of equipment. Do I own some? Yes. I have it for my team to use and for our investigations and events. But I’m not a big trustee in the “equipment” thing. Cameras – yes. We also use voice recorders.
Maureen Page: Is that pretty common – that you detect sound more often than anything else?
Shaun Jones: Yes, I think we collect sound evidence more often than photographs, video, etc. Not that we don’t personal experiences, but some are hard to document. For example, if you’re sitting there and something touches you, there is nothing to substantiate it, other than you just saying so. But, when you’re talking about voices that are recorded, it is scrutinized until we are positive that it was not a “natural” source. We can rule out that it wasn’t anyone on the team or anyone outside of a resident and pretty much conclude that it’s paranormal. If people are going to use EMFs and thermometers and trifields [a trifield detects magnetic, electric, and microwave fields] or whatever, there needs to be significant counterparts to that. If you’re sitting there with an EMF and all of sudden it goes off the scale, it could be anything electrical or battery operated, etc. But, if something else – like a bang or something falls down – happens at the same time then you have to stop and think if that’s too much of a coincidence.
Maureen Page: How about cameras? There are lots of different kinds of cameras you can use: photographic cameras, hand-held video cameras, security cameras… so what scenarios would you use different cameras in or would you use them all?
Shaun Jones: We use them all. I like the security camera aspect because you can set them up all around, at different angles, so you’re covered if something does happen. But again, it’s almost like the spirits know where they are and something will happen. A team member will see a shadow for example, in an area or section where the cameras aren’t set up. You think you’ve got everything covered, but they’ll find that one little area off camera. I have seen a couple anomalies in rooms [where there are no cameras]. I’m not a big orb person, but I have seen an orb fly right up to a camera and then reverse itself and go backwards.
Maureen Page: Did you get that recorded?
Shaun Jones: That was a long time ago and stuff has disappeared. Computers crash and stuff gets lost. Now I’ve started logging all the documented evidence into online services.
Maureen Page: Getting back to security cameras… do you ever just set them up and then leave them?
Shaun Jones: We’ve done that once or twice, but we didn’t get anything.
Maureen Page: Was it hard to search through the video? Did you use the motion detection function to review the video or was it painstaking to look through it all?
Shaun Jones: It’s always painstaking to look through video. When I’m looking through video, especially if it’s 4 to 8 hours of video, I look at 30 min at a time. I’ll look through 30 minutes then I’ll get up and do something else for a bit and come back. If I try to do it all at once I’ll fall asleep – then when you wake up you have no idea how far back you need to go that you missed.
Maureen Page: There are better features these days on cameras and DVRs that it seems would be helpful. For example, infrared capabilities are much better these days and it’s cheaper too. What advances have you seen lately that you like? And what features do wish they would invent that would make it even better?
Shaun Jones: Infrared, night-vision cameras are essential for ghost hunting because most of our work is in the dark and what better way is there to see in the dark than an infrared camera. I would love to see someone come up with an infrared camera that detects motion and will move with the motion. For example, if the camera could detect a ghost / spirit and could follow it around as it moves. That’s what I would love to see someone come up with.
Maureen Page: The good news is that we actually do have that technology already. You can take an infrared PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) camera and hook that up to an auto-tracking box. The auto-tracking technology will detect the activity and direct the PTZ camera to follow the activity. Unfortunately, all of this technology is still rather expensive.
Maureen Page: Do you ever hook up audio to your camera system or do you do that separately?
Shaun Jones: We do that separately now. If something happens on the voice recorder then we will review the video for that time frame or vice versa.
Maureen Page: These days you can get a DVR which will accept video as well as audio inputs. What’s nice about that is that the audio and video is synched up automatically for you. That technology is available today and it’s pretty affordable too.
Shaun Jones: OK, good to know.
Maureen Page: Have you ever tried using a wireless camera system?
Shaun Jones: I have, in the past, tried to work with wireless. But we’ve had problems with interference, whether it’s something in the building or two-way radio or whatever.
Maureen Page: Is interference pretty common with the wireless?
Shaun Jones: Yes, it is.
Maureen Page: We don’t sell a lot of wireless just for that reason. We’ve tested it out ourselves and we found that the transmission isn’t that good and there’s a lot of interference with the image.
Shaun Jones: Exactly.
Maureen Page: There is new wireless technology available that is based on use of network cameras [as opposed to standard analog cameras] but that technology is still kind-of expensive. What’s nice about wireless is that you don’t have to run a bunch of wires everywhere which I’m sure must be an issue for some of the places you have to go, having access to power and running wires.
Shaun Jones: It hasn’t been a big problem for us. Of course there are locations that don’t have any power whatsoever, we just accept it and deal with it. We go in with regular cameras, maybe hand-held video cameras and voice recorders. So we’re not too concerned with that. And who wants to run a generator with all that noise, what’s the point of investigating?
Maureen Page: And even with wireless cameras you still need wires to power them even though you don’t need wires to transmit the video.
Shaun Jones: Exactly.
Maureen Page: Since you have this camera system and you have to move it around, are you using plug and play cable?
Shaun Jones: Yes, we have a few different DVRs that we can setup at a site…so it’s not too bad. We don’t have to move the system around that much.
Maureen Page: So it seems like varifocal lenses, for example, would be really handy because then you could adjust the focus to the size of the room or whatever focal length you need. Have you found varifocal lenses to be helpful?
Shaun Jones: Oh yeah. Because you might have a powerful camera that goes up to 100 or 125 ft, but if you put that in a room that’s 12 by 12 you’re just staring at a wall – it’s too close. So, using the varifocal lens, you can back things up and get more of the room.
Maureen Page: Switching gears here… How did you personally get into paranormal investigation?
Shaun Jones: That’s a loaded question.
Maureen Page: If you are uncomfortable we don’t need to discuss it.
Shaun Jones: I’m not uncomfortable talking about it. As a kid I would see things or whatever and never had answers because, as an African-American, we don’t talk about these things.
Maureen Page: Really? So you feel your culture is not open to this kind of thing?
Shaun Jones: Oh, no no no. So, I grew up scared because I didn’t know what it was. It stopped for a while and then when it started again. I said, “OK…that’s it! I’ve got to find out what’s going on”. That’s when I started doing research and found out there were other people out there looking for this stuff. So I did more research and talked to more people and here I am almost 8 years later with my own team now [the Florida Ghost Team].
Maureen Page: That’s quite an accomplishment, so congratulations on that.
Shaun Jones: Thank you.
Maureen Page: Tell me more about your team?
Shaun Jones: My team members are great people. We all get along and have fun but we’re very serious about this.
Maureen Page: Being serious about this business is very important to you, you’ve mentioned it several times. Why is being serious so important to you?
Shaun Jones: More and more, since the paranormal shows have started [on TV], instead of saying “I’d like to help people” – people are doing it for fame. They start these groups, they are disorganized, and they are running around cemeteries and without even having one investigation under their belt they are trying to do events with paranormal celebrities. These people are not serious about this. They want to rub elbows with paranormal celebrities and they want to be on TV. I’ve worked hard and endured a lot of crap with the Florida Ghost Team. We’ve had people slander us because they want to take over our position. We are the premier ghost hunting team in Florida and have been for years.
Maureen Page: I would think that if somebody had something going on at their house or whatever and they wanted to bring someone in to look at it, that trust would be a big issue.
Shaun Jones: For sure, trust is a big issue. We need to be able to trust everyone on our team. We do background screenings on every member of our team and every applicant that wants to join. I think it’s vital. We don’t want our organization tarnished if someone goes into a home and steals something or whatever. If someone has anything like that on their record we won’t take them on.
Maureen Page: Tell me more about the events and services you offer?
Shaun Jones: We started doing tag-along programs back in 2004 or so. A tag-along is where people pay to come in and investigate themselves. We only do this with historical or commercial buildings, never residential. I believe our events are much better than other group’s events because we don’t try to crowd as many people in as we can like other groups do. It’s uncomfortable, people are running around, evidence gets tainted and people are doing this to make more money. We limit our events to a certain number of people depending on the location. We run our events much differently as they are not ghost tours. Although, we may discuss the history of a certain location before the actual investigation begins. We train the people on the equipment [and process] and divide them into groups. We move them around to different locations at the site. People love it, they love our events.
Maureen Page: That does sound like a lot of fun!
Shaun Jones: Yeah, you got to come out and go!
Maureen Page: I’d like to. Do you ever do anything in St. Augustine?
Shaun Jones: No, and I’ll tell you why. That city is so overrun with ghost tours and people running over there investigating this and investigating that. It’s a burned out ghost city. I’m sure the ghosts are probably sick of it. They’re probably thinking “I’m moving on, I’m going somewhere else, this is crazy.”
Maureen Page: Getting back to your personal story… now that you’ve ‘come out’ about your experiences with the paranormal, have you had anyone else in your family share similar experiences? Is it true that sometimes psychic ability will run in a family?
Shaun Jones: I’m sure it does but again, we never talk about it.
Maureen Page: Even now, so that hasn’t changed much in your experience?
Shaun Jones: No. I’ve tried to talk to some other African-American people about it and they say “I don’t mess with that stuff…”. That’s why you’ll see I’m the only Black on the site…lol
Maureen Page: But maybe you’re providing hope to other youngsters who are afraid to speak up. At least they know they are not alone.
Shaun Jones: I really do try. As far as I know I am the first and only African-American female Founder and Director of a paranormal team so far.
Maureen Page: And to be the founder and director of the Florida Ghost Team, that’s a lot to be proud of.
Shaun Jones: Oh yeah, I am.
Maureen Page: What future do you hope for the FGT?
Shaun Jones: To keep on doing what we’re doing. And, I would like to create a paranormal educational program.
Maureen Page: Who is it that you would like to educate, for people to become professional paranormal investigators?
Shaun Jones: That, and for the general public who are interested in paranormal investigation, or for people who have activity in their home and want to investigate on their own.
Maureen Page: Shaun Jones, Founder, Director of the Florida Ghost Team, thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Shaun Jones: I really appreciate it. Thank you very much.