Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Paranormal Activity Franchise's Entire Timeline Explained

Few expected a found-footage haunted house franchise to develop anything close to a complex mythology. After 2007's "Paranormal Activity" became a surprise hit, it would have been easy for 2010's "Paranormal Activity 2" to forget the first movie and re-hash a different group of people tormented by an invisible demon in some other place. But, that's not how it went. 

Instead, the first three "Paranormal" films all focus on members of one family, depicting a demon they call Tobi and how he has influenced events for decades. Sure, later films in this series of 7 (so far) largely moved past Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) to focus on other characters, but the events of the first three movies remained relevant, and thanks to the introduction of demon-induced time travel, those events could even be literally revisited. Only the most recent entry in the franchise, 2021's "Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin," lacks a direct connection to the original saga, yet its understanding of how demons work, what sort of behavior they inspire in humans, and how they show up on video still mark it as enmeshed in the same mythology.

With that in mind, below is a comprehensive breakdown of the full timeline of the "Paranormal Activity" series, beginning with the pre-history about which no movies have been made, and marching forward to the present, with some time-traveling details along the way.

Unknown date (pre-1980) — A coven makes a deal with a demon

Sometime in the 20th Century, a group of witches who would come to be known as the Midwives Coven made a deal with a demon. In exchange for worldly power, wealth, whatever the witches may have asked for, a coven leader named Lois promised to give the demon her firstborn son (or more accurately, the first male child born of her family line). Lois, as it turned out, never had a son, only a daughter named Julie. Julie, in turn, would have two daughters of her own, Katie and Kristi.

As for the Midwives Coven, they would continue to exert their influence over the family of Lois and other hapless innocents for decades to come. As the story got more sprawling, the wants and needs of the demon himself would also seem to expand. First, he just wanted the initial male child, then it was multiple male children and virgin sacrifice, then a little boy and a little girl to give the demon a physical form. Fortunately, the coven would be aided in these ever-expanding goals by ever-expanding magic that would eventually even include time travel.

1988 — Paranormal Activity 3

The childhood experiences of Julie's daughters Katie and Kristi are revealed on VHS tapes recorded by Julie's boyfriend Dennis, a professional videographer. The strange events began when five-year-old Kristi started talking to an invisible friend she called Tobi, who everyone naturally assumed was imaginary. Eight-year-old Katie was initially as skeptical of Tobi's experience as the adults, telling Katie that "only babies have imaginary friends," but as Tobi's demonic influence began spreading over the household in more overt ways, Katie became a believer.

After he inadvertently recorded dust settling on an invisible figure during an earthquake, Dennis set up cameras around the house to document further supernatural occurrences. The camera in the girls' bedroom showed Kristi rising in the middle of the night and talking to — even sometimes arguing with — an unseen presence in the corner of the room next to a small closet. Dennis found a strange symbol drawn inside that closet, and research revealed it was used by witches in the summoning and binding of demons, who would keep girls until childbearing age, forcing them to give birth to boys promised to the demons.

With the demonic haunting escalating, Julie began to blame Dennis for encouraging the girls' imaginations until things got irrevocably out of hand. Julie refused to look at the videos, even as they captured things like Randy (a friend of Dennis) being physically scratched by the demon or Katie being lifted off the ground.

1988 — Paranormal Activity 3 & Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

Julie only became convinced something was going on after she personally witnessed kitchen furniture and appliances levitating to the ceiling and then crashing down to the floor. Terrified, she and the family fled the house to the farm of her mother Lois. Naturally, this just played into the coven's hands. On their first night in that house, Tobi killed Julie and Dennis, leaving the girls in the custody of their grandmother and her coven.

The coven brought Kristi and Katie back to their mother's house and raised them there, preparing them for a future with the demon. Even then, the coven members knew that Kristi would eventually give birth to the child the demon was waiting for, while Katie would do the demon's bidding. The girls were taught to see through time using Tobi's demonic senses, enabling them to observe the Fleege family in 2013.

Kristi and Katie must have blocked out these memories, as they would be surprised when the demonic presence came back into their lives as adults.

1992 — Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

At some point in 1992, Hunter Rey, a child who wouldn't be born until 2005, arrived in the past thanks to Tobi's time manipulation abilities. Hunter was one of two children Tobi needed in order to take on a physical form. The other arrived later that year, also from the future, in the person of Leila Fleege, who had traveled back from the year 2013 via a tunnel through the Ghost Dimension that Tobi opened in her bedroom wall.

Shortly after Tobi became incarnated in flesh, Leila's mother Emily Fleege arrived, having followed Leila through the time tunnel. After Leila explained that she was fine, Tobi killed Emily, and the demon and the little girl left together.

That same year, the coven burned down Katie and Kristi's house, allowing the house the Fleeges would one day occupy to be built in its place.

2005 — Paranormal Activity 2

By 2005, Kristi was married to Daniel Rey, an older man with a teenage daughter, Ali. One day, while Kristi was pregnant with their first child together, Katie showed up with a box containing all the videos Dennis had recorded when they were children. As VCRs were largely obsolete by this time, nobody watched the videos, just leaving them in the basement. 

When Kristi gave birth to her son Hunter Rey that same year, everything seemed normal and joyous. Unbeknownst to everyone at the time, Emily Fleege gave birth to Lyla that same day.

Shortly after that, the Rey house was seemingly burglarized. However, nothing of value was stolen; everything was just upended and tossed around. Hunter's room was untouched. The box of videos in the basement, however, disappeared. The break-in led Dan to have an expensive security system (including video cameras at several key spots inside and outside the house) installed, which would aid in documenting the supernatural terrors to come.

August 2006 — Paranormal Activity 2

In the months to come, the Rey family was tormented by an invisible presence. They heard inexplicable noises, felt someone else's breath in empty rooms, and witnessed pots, pans and knives spontaneously falling from their kitchen rack. Dan fired their housekeeper Martine after catching her smudging the house with burning sage in an attempt to ward off evil spirits.

The family dog, Abby, was aware of Tobi's presence from the start, growling at something unseen, especially in Hunter's room. One night Abby was seen fighting with something just offscreen and apparently losing, whimpering and later being found barely conscious and unresponsive. While Dan and Ali took Abby to the emergency vet, Kristi was attacked by this unseen presence, which dragged her through the house and into the basement, trapping her there. She reappeared with a bite mark on her leg, acting like she was possessed. There were also symbols scratched into the inside of the basement door, which Ali later discovered.

Realizing something was quite wrong with Kristi, Dan apologetically called Martine and asked for her advice. Learning that Kristi's possession could only be transferred to a blood relative, Dan made the decision to sacrifice Katie. After a ritual involving the burning of a childhood photo of Katie, Kristi returned to normal. On her next visit, however, Katie told her sister that she'd begun to experience a malevolent unseen presence in her own home.

September 2006 — Paranormal Activity

Katie and Micah never knew that Daniel Rey had a hand in their experiences with the demon called Tobi. In fact, at first Micah didn't really believe anything was going on at all, but he used the haunting as an excuse to purchase a digital video camera, having enjoyed messing around with the one belonging to Daniel on a previous visit.

Micah and Katie set up the camera in their bedroom to capture the disturbances they'd been experiencing late at night, and Tobi seemed to take that as an escalation that could only be answered by stepping up his activities. In addition to strange banging and knocking sounds, the evenings included doors and other objects moving on their own, and footprints left in flour that looked more like they belonged to a small dinosaur than a person's.

After Tobi's trail led them to the attic, Micah and Katie found the partially burned childhood photo of Katie that Dan Rey had used to set Tobi upon them, but they had no idea how it got there.

October 2006 — Paranormal Activity, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, & Paranormal Activity 2

After weeks of torment, Micah and Katie were ready to flee their house, even though a psychic had warned them it wouldn't help. On the last day, however, Katie seemed resigned to what was happening and didn't want to leave. That night, a clearly-possessed Katie rose from the bed and went downstairs. Micah was awakened when she screamed for him.

Although it wouldn't be revealed until years later, what had prompted Katie's scream was an encounter with Hector, a young man she'd never met before, who had traveled back in time from 2013 via a door in the house belonging to Grandma Lois.

When Micah came downstairs, Katie stabbed him to death, then carried his body upstairs and threw it at the video camera. Still covered in Micah's blood, she then went to the Rey house, where she killed Daniel and Kristi and kidnapped Hunter. Ali was on a school trip at the time, and was thus spared.

2011 — Paranormal Activity 4

From that point on, Katie would act as a knowing acolyte of Tobi. However, she did lose Hunter, who was adopted by the Nelson family and given the name Wyatt. She somehow acquired another young boy named Robbie, and used him to reconnect with Wyatt by posing as Robbie's mother and moving into the Nelsons' neighborhood. Under the influence of Robbie, Wyatt began communicating with Tobi and bringing paranormal experiences upon his adopted family.

The coven also re-emerged as an active force at this point, pursuing not only Wyatt/Hunter, but also teenage Alex Nelson, who was earmarked as the virgin sacrifice they needed to bind Tobi to this plane. As usual, the haunting escalated until the entire family was dead — except for Hunter, no longer Wyatt, who returned to Katie's custody.

2012 — Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

In 2012 Los Angeles, a series of events occurred that at first seemed unrelated to the "Paranormal" lore, but would ultimately reveal themselves to be the work of the same demon-worshipping coven, and the same demonic force that they worship. In a modest apartment building in a Latin American neighborhood, a woman named Ana was suspected of being a witch. After she died under mysterious circumstances, two teens — Jesse and Hector — snuck into her apartment to look around.

Immediately after this, Jesse began experiencing supernatural abilities accompanied by uncontrollable mood swings, and came to realize that he'd been marked for possession by Ana's coven. Hector and another friend, Marisol, attempted to figure out what was going on and what they could do about it. They even met with Ali Rey, who had done a lot of research into the coven since the death of her parents. Unfortunately, their efforts led them to the farm of Grandma Lois, where Marisol was killed and Hector was sent back in time to die on the same night as Micah, back in 2006.

2013 — Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

In 2013, the Fleege family found a box among their stuff, one that none of them recognized. It contained all the VHS tapes of Katie and Kristi's childhood that had disappeared from the Rey Family basement years prior. In addition to the previously seen tapes of the sisters living with their mom Julie and her boyfriend Dennis, there were also tapes from after Dennis and Julie's deaths, when the coven was raising Katie and Kristi, and encouraging them to harness their spiritual powers.

In addition to the tapes, the box also contained a large old-fashioned video camera. Ryan Fleege quickly determined that the camera was custom built, and noticed that it seemed to show strange patterns in the air that were invisible to the naked eye. Around the same time, Ryan's six-year-old daughter Leila began talking to an invisible presence that she called Tobi. Using the strange camera, Ryan was able to capture Tobi on video as he'd never been seen before — a vaguely humanoid form of congealed blackness with the hint of a demonic face visible at close range.

Unfortunately, being able to glimpse Tobi didn't make it any easier to stop him. It became increasingly clear that Leila was being summoned by the past. The long-ago recorded images of Kristi and Katie even seemed to be aware of her, with a video of Kristi at one point telling Leila "bless you," when she sneezed. After the Fleege family's attempt to cast out Tobi was unsuccessful, Leila was summoned through a portal into the past, with her mother Emily in pursuit.

2021 — Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin

In 2021, a young woman named Margot decided to make a documentary about her own origins, having been left outside a hospital as a baby. Accompanied by her cameraman and friend Chris, she met with a relative named Samuel who she found through a genetics website. Samuel claims to be Amish and on his Rumspringa, and agrees to accompany Margot, Chris, and their sound man, Dale, back to the Pennsylvania farm where he and Margot both originated. Talking to the other community members, Margot learns that her mother was impregnated by an outsider, and abandoned her rather than allow her be adopted by another family in the community.

It doesn't take long to realize things on the farm are not what they seem. The community isn't Amish at all — they do, however, sacrifice goats in the middle of the night and have a church in the middle of the woods with a deep hole inside it. It turns out they brought Margot there deliberately, because a hole in the church contains the demon Asmodeus in the body of Margot's mother, and Margot is next in line to house it. Margot kills her mother and escapes with Chris, as the now-free Asmodeus wreaks havoc on the community.

This story isn't directly connected to the previous installments, although there have been hints of a link between Tobi and Asmodeus (as described in the Book of Tobit). An 8th movie, "Paranormal Activity: The Other Side," promises a return to the saga of Katie and Tobi, and will perhaps divulge more details.