Webb was just seven years old when he met his first ghost. He says a man he'd never seen before introduced himself and then disappeared when his grandmother asked whom he was talking to. "It wasn't like it was a reflection in a mirror. Clearly it was like somebody standing right in front of me."
Webb says he later recognized the apparition — when he saw a photograph of his grandfather, who had died before Webb was born.
Webb is originally from Mattapan, but his family moved around a lot. He lived for a time in Brockton, in a house he swears was haunted. Windows reflected strange faces. A family puppy got out of the house mysteriously and was hit by a car. And his father left the family.
"My father will not talk about what happened in that house," he says.
As a teenager, Webb says, he started selling crack before he was old enough to drive. But that wasn't the life he wanted. He got into setting up sound systems for an uncle with connections in the entertainment business, and soon he found himself working security at clubs.
"Joey never finished high school, and he was able to start a business of his own," his older sister Serena explains. "His escape was 'Okay, I'm gonna make money, and I'm gonna be happy when I get rich.' "
In 2003, he was working as a security supervisor for a Saugus nightclub, the Palace, when he was wounded in a drive-by shooting.
"People's first perception is there's a six-foot-four, baldheaded black man who dresses like I dress, so he had to be doing something wrong," says Webb. "Sorry — I got shot at work. Nothin' gangsta about that."
A profound scar runs the lower length of Webb's right leg. He says bullet bits are still stuck somewhere in his muscles, deep below the flesh.
"I'm more afraid of live people than I am [of the] dead," he says. "The dead have never hurt me. The dead have never shot me, or stabbed me, or cut me," Webb says. "It's live people who do that type of stuff."
He still carries a gun. And he takes solace in the words tattooed on his massive bicep (despite a missing letter): "WHAT DO[E]SN'T KILL ME WILL MAKE ME STRONGER."
Three years after he was shot, Webb started having problems seeing. He was almost blind in his right eye by the time he checked into the hospital. When doctors gave him a CT scan, they discovered something potentially deadly.
The doctors told him he had a sausage-shaped aneurysm sitting on his optic nerve, on the right side of his brain, Webb recalls.
They opened his skull to operate. Unlike the bullet scars, evidence of his craniotomy is now barely visible. A smooth line no thicker than dental floss starts at his brow and runs over his forehead to the back of his right ear.
Webb calls the experience an awakening — an event that inspired new life aspirations that go beyond money and fame, the traditional tenets of working in the entertainment scene.
"I said [to Joey], 'When you had this brain aneurysm, you brought something back with you,' " Serena says. "He's more open than he was before in terms of talking to us about things."
Webb says it opened his third eye.
"After the brain surgery, I really feel like somebody flipped a light switch and illuminated the world for me a little bit better, to see it more for what it is," Webb says. "I don't know what happened, but something happened. Everything is so much clearer."
When Webb decided to start documenting his quest for answers about the supernatural, he began seeking a new kind of ghost-hunting team, one that focused on unreported hauntings and, in particular, communities of color.
"You look at [ghost-hunting TV shows], and you don't see a black person. They maybe have a black cameraman; that's about the size of it," he says. "So they're not going to take that leap and go talk to someone in the 'hood because that's not their area, it's not their territory. They don't know the 'hood ghost stories like I know them. They don't have a 'hood ghost story like I have."