A Head Full of Ghosts
Goodreads ratings
3.81 / 5

"A Head Full of Ghosts" Summary

By Paul Tremblay

horror | 286 pages | Published in 2015


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A family's struggle with their daughter's apparent possession is documented by a reality TV show in this chilling psychological horror.


"A Head Full of Ghosts" by Paul Tremblay is a chilling and thought-provoking psychological horror novel that delves into themes of mental illness, family dynamics, and the blurred lines between reality and the supernatural. Through its compelling narrative and complex characters, the book explores the devastating impact of trauma and the power of perception.

Brief Synopsis

The story is set in a small town in Massachusetts and revolves around the Barrett family, who are grappling with a series of disturbing events. Marjorie, the eldest daughter, begins to exhibit alarming signs of mental instability, leading her parents to seek the help of a local priest and a reality TV crew. As Marjorie's behavior becomes increasingly erratic, her younger sister, Merry, grapples with the terrifying possibility that her sister may be possessed by a malevolent force. Told from Merry's perspective as an adult reflecting on the events of her childhood, the novel weaves together elements of horror, psychological suspense, and family drama.

Main Events

1-3The Barrett family is introduced, and Marjorie's behavior begins to raise concerns. The family seeks the help of a local priest and a reality TV crew to document Marjorie's apparent possession. Merry grapples with fear and confusion as she witnesses her sister's disturbing behavior.
4-6Marjorie's condition worsens, and the family becomes increasingly desperate for answers. The reality TV crew captures footage of Marjorie's alarming behavior, adding to the public's fascination with the case. Merry struggles with her conflicting emotions towards her sister and the attention surrounding their family.
7-9The media frenzy around Marjorie's case intensifies, with skeptics and believers alike weighing in on the nature of her condition. Merry finds solace in her friendship with a classmate, while her parents grow more desperate to find a solution.
10-12As Marjorie's behavior becomes increasingly violent and erratic, the family faces mounting pressure from both the public and the church. The novel delves deeper into the psychological toll the events are taking on Merry, who is caught between her loyalty to her sister and her growing fear.
13-15The narrative shifts to Merry as an adult, reflecting on the events of her childhood and the lasting impact of her sister's possession. The novel reaches its climax as the truth about Marjorie's condition is finally revealed, leading to a haunting and unsettling conclusion.

Main Characters

Marjorie Barrett

The eldest daughter in the Barrett family, Marjorie exhibits disturbing behavior that leads to speculation about her mental state and potential possession. Her character is central to the novel's exploration of the supernatural and psychological themes.

Merry Barrett

The younger sister of Marjorie, Merry serves as the narrator of the story, providing insight into the family's experiences and her own emotional journey. Her perspective offers a poignant exploration of fear, trauma, and the blurred lines between reality and perception.

Mr. and Mrs. Barrett

The parents of Marjorie and Merry, Mr. and Mrs. Barrett grapple with the challenges of parenting a child whose behavior becomes increasingly alarming. Their desperation to find a solution drives much of the narrative tension and emotional conflict.

Themes and Insights

Mental Illness and Perception

The novel delves into the complexities of mental illness and the impact of perception on how individuals are treated and understood. Through Marjorie's character, the story raises thought-provoking questions about the nature of reality and the ways in which mental health challenges are perceived by society.

Family Dynamics and Trauma

The Barrett family's experiences serve as a powerful exploration of the impact of trauma on familial relationships. The novel delves into the ways in which fear, desperation, and conflicting emotions can strain and reshape family dynamics, leaving lasting scars on each member.

Supernatural and Psychological Horror

"A Head Full of Ghosts" masterfully blends elements of supernatural horror with psychological suspense, creating a narrative that keeps readers on edge as they grapple with the unsettling events surrounding the Barrett family. The novel challenges readers to question their beliefs about the supernatural while delving into the depths of human psychology.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Head Full of Ghosts" is a gripping and haunting exploration of the supernatural, mental illness, and the enduring impact of trauma on a family. Through its compelling narrative and complex characters, the novel offers readers an immersive and thought-provoking reading experience that lingers long after the final page.


Paul Tremblay's "A Head Full of Ghosts" captivates readers with its blend of psychological horror, family drama, and thought-provoking themes. The novel's exploration of mental illness, perception, and the supernatural offers a deeply immersive reading experience that challenges readers to question their beliefs and confront the chilling reality of the Barrett family's harrowing ordeal.

A Head Full of Ghosts FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'A Head Full of Ghosts'?

    The genre of 'A Head Full of Ghosts' is horror.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Head Full of Ghosts'?

    The author of 'A Head Full of Ghosts' is Paul Tremblay.

  3. What is the main plot of 'A Head Full of Ghosts'?

    The main plot of 'A Head Full of Ghosts' revolves around the Barrett family and their teenage daughter Marjorie, who exhibits disturbing behavior that leads her family to believe she is possessed by a demon.

  4. Is 'A Head Full of Ghosts' suitable for young readers?

    Due to its horror content and mature themes, 'A Head Full of Ghosts' is not recommended for young readers.

  5. Are there any trigger warnings for 'A Head Full of Ghosts'?

    Readers should be aware that 'A Head Full of Ghosts' contains themes of mental illness, possession, and graphic scenes that may be disturbing to some individuals.