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The Entire Annabelle Timeline Explained

Many of us enjoy a good scare, something that will send a chill down the spine as the hairs on our arms stand at attention amid rapidly multiplying goosebumps. For moviegoers, it's a welcome sensation of anxiety that percolates our minds and adrenal glands as we seek thrills from the horrifying and the macabre — and filmmaker James Wan has perfected the art of giving this type of audience exactly what it is looking for. Wan's "The Conjuring" arrived in 2013 boasting all the thrills and chills that come with a superbly crafted horror tale all while working under a modestly low budget. This film begat a sprawling universe rife with horror stories to satiate the unending desires of genre fans everywhere.

One such addition to "The Conjuring" universe is the little devilish doll known as Annabelle. In real life, Annabelle is actually a three-foot Raggedy Ann doll. According to legend, it was used in a séance which allegedly paired it with the spirit of a demon. In the films, Annabelle is a horrific porcelain doll that was given a darker, more sinister look for the sake of Hollywood horror. While the films touch on some aspects of reality behind the true story of Annabelle, most of the doll's cinematic exploits are not based on real accounts. In the "Conjuring" universe, there are a number of critical points throughout Annabelle's legacy that mark significant paranormal activity. Let's take a look at the timeline of events behind Annabelle's darkly sinister adventures inflicting otherworldly terrors upon the innocent.

1943: Annabelle's creation

The second film to be released in the "Annabelle" trilogy is a prequel that offers us our earliest glimpse of the doll's story. In fact, in the early moments of "Annabelle: Creation," we're able to see the moment the doll was constructed and how a demonic entity became attached to it in the first place. Annabelle was created by a dollmaker named Samuel Mullins, who ran a small toy company out of his own home, where he had a workshop to construct his products. Samuel and his wife Esther had a daughter ... named Annabelle.

On one fateful Sunday morning on the drive home from church, Samuel has to pull over to fix a flat tire. In an effort to help her father, Annabelle steps into the road, only to be struck by a passing vehicle. After her death, Samuel and Esther live in their grief for some time until they begin experiencing supernatural happenings around their home. Believing the spirit to be that of their own daughter, they invite it to inhabit the doll so their daughter can remain close. Unbeknownst to the grieving couple, however, they're inviting a sinister demonic force into their home. After the demon attacks Esther and attempts to take her soul, the Mullins resolve to deal with the doll. With the help of Catholic priests, Samuel creates a prison for the doll in the form of a locked closet lined with pages from the Bible and blessed by the church.

1955: Annabelle's first haunting

Several years after the horrific tragedy in the Mullins family, a group of girls from a Catholic orphanage are invited by the couple to come stay on the property. Samuel sternly warns the girls to stay out of Annabelle's locked room — but one of the girls, named Janice, has just enough morbid curiosity to break in anyway. After the demonic entity uses its power to entice the girl with a cryptic note instructing her to find the doll, she releases it from its confines and supernatural horrors begin terrorizing the Mullins home once again.

Initially, the demon focuses on the young girls, being that they're the easiest prey for a lurking demon seeking souls. Taking the form of Annabelle Mullins' spirit, the demon appears innocent, but quickly shows its true colors. As Janice's friend Linda roams the house playing hide-and-seek with the other girls, she finds the best spot in a crawlspace underneath the stairs. Here she finds the creepy doll in the dark with a frightening demonic face beside it among the shadows. Later that night, Nancy and Carol are staying up late giggling underneath a bed sheet when they see a creepy shadow appear outside their hiding space ringing a bell. They fear it to be the reclusive Esther Mullins, but it's actually the demonic spirit sparking fear using the matriarch's visage.

1955: Annabelle's possession of Janice

After making attempts to strike fear in the hearts of the girls, the demon sets its sights on young Janice, who set the evil spirit free in the first place. One night, the entity lures Janice close with the appearance of young Annabelle Mullins. However, it turns frighteningly hostile and reveals it wants her soul. Terrified, she flees the room and attempts to head downstairs using the stairlift. The demon stalks her on the stairlift, however, and eventually hurls her to the ground floor, severely injuring her.

After Janice's tussle with the demon, she uses a wheelchair. Her injury makes her even more susceptible to being cornered by the frightening entity. Meanwhile, the demon shows that it's not restricted to the dark when it takes the form of the girls' caretaker Sister Charlotte and begins pushing Janice's wheelchair. Unsure where she's headed, Janice becomes frightened as the nun pushes her faster without uttering a word. Finally, Janice finds herself alone in the old barn, where she sees the ghostly apparition of young Annabelle Mullins — only this time, Janice knows full well that this spirit doesn't belong to an innocent young girl. The demon posing as young Annabelle leaps onto Janice and vomits black bile in her mouth, signifying its possession of her.

1955: Janice's adoption

After becoming a vessel for the demon that was attached to the Annabelle doll, Janice is no more. What remains is a savage monstrosity behind the impersonation of a young girl that desires more souls. As the possessed Janice approaches Ed Mullins, he holds a cross to defend himself against the forces of evil. However, as Janice backs into a darkened hallway, she transforms into a shadowy demon through a series of wince-inducing sounds of cracking bones. The demon then uses its power to break Ed's fingers, forcing him to relinquish the holy iconography he's wielding as a weapon. The demon then kills the tortured patriarch as retribution for imprisoning it.

The demon doesn't stop there in its revenge quest — it slaughters Esther Mullins, apparently tearing her in two and hanging the upper half of her corpse on the wall to terrorize and traumatize the young girls who came looking for her. In all the chaos, Janice disappears, and the hauntings seemingly stop. However, we later see her taken in by another orphanage under the name of Annabelle, where she's adopted by the Higgins couple seen at the beginning of "Annabelle." The Higgins give their newly adopted daughter a Raggedy Ann doll, a suitably creepy reference to the real-life Annabelle.

1967: Janice/Annabelle kills her adoptive parents

The poor Higgins family never saw it coming. (Apparently, demons are also thespians who've mastered the art of acting and theatricality.) The possessed Janice, now known as Annabelle, lives with the couple for a period of time, posing as a young girl while secretly housing a wicked spirit of dark origins. Twelve years pass, and the now-adult Annabelle has gotten involved with a Satanic cult. Of course, a demon-possessed individual likely feels right at home with a crew like the Disciples of the Ram.

In a frightening display all too relevant to a time when fears of Satanic cults ran rampant across the country, Annabelle and her boyfriend violently slaughter her adoptive parents late one night. The young couple next door, Mia and John Form, then have to deal with the fallout of the act, as Annabelle sets her sights on attacking pregnant Mia next.

1967: The demon returns to the Annabelle doll

Before Annabelle appeared with her boyfriend in tow ready to carve up her adoptive parents, the Forms next door had recently made a new acquisition: In an effort to do something special for his wife, John purchased a porcelain doll to add to her collection. Of course, it's the exact doll that the demon called home years earlier. As Annabelle invades John and Mia's home with her boyfriend, Annabelle kills herself while holding the doll. At this stage, it appears the demon has returned to his former place of residence. Obviously having the doll next door to the parents of the demon-possessed girl was no coincidence, but simply a matter of sinister manipulative forces behind the scenes.

After the whole debacle, Mia and John bear a child and they move away from the neighborhood in an attempt to get away from the horrors that befell them. Of course, supernatural hauntings begin tormenting Mia during the day as her husband is away at work. Even more frightening, the demon appears to want her infant child. With the Annabelle doll still in the couple's possession, the wicked entity has all it needs to attempt retrieving another soul for its collection.

1967: Six months later, the doll is purchased in an antique shop

The demon attached to the Annabelle doll reaches frightening levels of hostility toward Mia and her child. The demon even appears to Mia in its hellish form as it toys with her in the apartment building elevator, forcing her down into the building's basement. Now clearly understanding the danger her child is in, Mia attempts to gain the help of the church as well as her newfound friend Evelyn. Eventually the hauntings crescendo toward an ultimatum — Mia must decide whether to give up her soul or allow the demon to continue pursuing her child. She almost makes the ultimate sacrifice, but Evelyn, guilt-ridden over her own past as a mother, is ready to make the sacrifice so Mia can remain with her child.

The doll disappears after Evelyn jumps from the apartment building window, turning up six months later in an antique shop where a mother discovers it and purchases it for her college-age daughter. Despite Evelyn's sacrifice, the demon is still clearly connected with the doll — and now it has a new unsuspecting victim in its quest for souls.

1968: Ed and Lorraine Warren gain possession of the doll

The moment that famous demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren obtain the Annabelle doll is depicted in the beginning of three films: "The Conjuring," "Annabelle," and "Annabelle Comes Home." The moment takes place approximately a year after the events of "Annabelle," and the girl who received the doll as a gift from her mother is now terrified of it. It's been moving around the house on its own — not visibly, like the murderous terror Chucky in the "Child's Play" films, but by simply appearing in random places.

The Warrens offer to take the doll off of their hands and contain the evil within it. "Annabelle Comes Home" shows them driving home with the doll in the back seat. After their car breaks down, Lorraine, who is a medium, begins seeing approaching spirits and realizes that the demonic power within the doll is a conduit for the dead.

1968: The Warrens store the doll in a sanctified case

Like all supernaturally charged objects in the Warrens' possession, the evil within the doll must be contained. Ed and Lorraine Warren are famous for their occult room, which stores some of the most haunted objects in American history — each with its own horrific backstory. Clearly Annabelle is a threat, as we've already seen across two films at this point. The Warrens must seal away that threat so it doesn't prey on innocents any longer.

The Warrens create a case and invite a Catholic priest over to bless and sanctify the space within the casing. The demonologist couple then seals the case, and Lorraine uses her abilities as a medium to detect whether the containment unit is doing its job. Just like the real-life case that held the actual Annabelle doll, Ed and Lorraine Warren mark this makeshift prison with signage warning others to not open it. The results would be truly horrific.

1969 or 1972? An error in the timeline

The timeline gets a tad confusing at this point thanks to an error in the dates portrayed in the film. "Annabelle Comes Home" shows the Warrens taking the doll into their possession in 1968, one year after the events of "Annabelle." This scene was also a prelude to "The Conjuring," depicting the Warrens' acquisition of the item prior to taking on the Perron case. However, the primary events of "Annabelle Comes Home" are said to have taken place only "one year later" following the 1968 introduction. This would place the events in 1969.

This conflicts with two primary points within the film. First off is the conflict of Bob Palmeri, timid love interest to Judy Warren's babysitter Mary Ellen, who attempts to sing the famous Bread single "Everything I Own" accompanied by his own beginner's handling of an acoustic guitar. This song debuted in 1972, so unless Bob is a time traveler, the year can't be 1969. The second contradiction is the presence of the haunted music box among the occult artifacts in the Warrens' house. They acquired it during the events of "The Conjuring," which occurred in 1971; therefore, it stands to reason that the majority of the events in "Annabelle Comes Home" — outside the 1968 intro — actually occur in 1972.

1972: Annabelle haunts the Warren home

During "Annabelle Comes Home," Mary Ellen's ultra-curious friend Daniela Rios is lured into the Warrens' artifact room and opens the door to the haunted doll. It was only a matter of time, right? Ed and Lorraine are away when it happens; Mary Ellen is babysitting their daughter Judith for the night. What better time for Annabelle to wreak havoc once again? This time, however, the doll's demonic spirit doesn't simply stalk the girls through the home — this time, it unleashes a different brand of terror.

Being located in the artifact room, the demonic doll is among the malevolent and/or mischievous spirits of countless others. And since the introduction to the film established that Annabelle has the power to act as a beacon to the dead, it only makes sense that the demon sends some newly acquired friends after the girls. Entities known under fun aliases such as the Ferryman and the Bride set out to horrify the girls — including the Black Shuck, a werewolf-like spirit that patrols outside the home, keeping the girls inside. Some possessed samurai armor and a haunted Feeley Meeley board game also join the fun. Terror ensues, but Mary Ellen, Judith, and Daniela are able to eventually put the spirits to rest by, once again, capturing Annabelle and sealing her in the casing within the artifact room ... until the next time the demonic doll is released to wreak hellish havoc.