The Paranormal Activity Timeline Explained

Blumhouse may be one of the staple horror production companies currently working, but it all started with a little film called "Paranormal Activity." Created by Oren Peli, the first "Paranormal Activity" film started creeping into theaters around 2007, but after fans demanded it, finally earned a wide release in 2009. The films follow a somewhat similar structure — all connected by the demon Asmodeus "Tobi" from the Book of Tobit — featuring families haunted and sometimes even murdered by the malevolent presence. The series utilizes a found-footage/POV style of filmmaking, with the story told through the lens of security cameras, phones, computers, and other methods of personal recording. Due to the ultra-low production budget of each film, it doesn't take much for a film in the "Paranormal Activity" series to be a financial success, with the first film remaining the most profitable horror film ever made.

With seven films in total, the world of "Paranormal Activity" exists in a non-linear timeline, at least compared to the order in which the films were released. Watching the films in the release order is fun, but the series' storytelling is infinitely stronger when watched in order of the movies' timeline. Instead of trying to predict the answers to unexplained questions posed throughout the franchise, watching the films in chronological order allows each new reveal to occur organically. So grab your shaky cams and brace for maximum jump-scare impact, because this is the "Paranormal Activity" timeline explained.

Paranormal Activity 3

Despite being the third film released in the franchise, the series' timeline begins with "Paranormal Activity 3." The film focuses on the childhood of sisters Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown), the former of whom would later star in the titular "Paranormal Activity." "PA3" takes place in 1988, nearly two decades before the events of the next two films. The sisters live with their mother Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her videographer boyfriend, Dennis (Chris Smith), when Kristi begins to see an imaginary friend named "Tobi," who turns out to be the devil that will terrorize the family throughout the rest of the franchise. The two sisters start acting weird once Tobi is around, motivating Julie and Dennis to set the cameras up around the house to hopefully catch whatever is causing the girls' behavioral changes on tape. It's one of the strongest entries in the series, especially once the true nature of Tobi is revealed (not to mention that damn Teddy Ruxpin doll). The film is also the first to introduce the coven known as "The Midwives," an international cult of witches that frequently appear throughout the series.

Paranormal Activity 2

Things get a little blurry with "Paranormal Activity 2," as the film aligns together with "Paranormal Activity" at the end of the film, but the second film starts a few months before the first film, and includes conversations about Katie and Micah's alleged supernatural encounters from the first film. Confusing? Perhaps a little bit, but when watching the films in chronological order, it makes a little bit more sense in practice than in explanation. "Paranormal Activity 2" centers on a now adult Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and her husband Daniel (Brian Boland) after their home was broken into and torn apart. However the only item stolen was a necklace Kristi received from her sister Katie, and the burglars completely avoided the nursery. Curiously, their new baby Hunter is the first male to be born on Kristi's side of the family since the 1930s. Kristi is convinced that the house is haunted, and begins to suspect that the events were caused by the demon who messed with her and her sister as children, with the new target being her child. The hauntings escalate to a harrowing degree, and when "Paranormal Activity 2" and the OG film finally meet together, it's a tragic and terrifying reveal, only emphasized by knowing what is to come. Without spoiling the ending, just know that baby Hunter is at the center of it all, and the climax makes for a pretty difficult viewing experience.

Paranormal Activity

Now that we know what happened to Kristi as an adult, it's time to visit her sister. In the very first entry to the franchise, "Paranormal Activity" takes place after the events of part 2, centering on young couple Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat). After strange events begin to take place around their home, the duo put up video cameras to capture the unexplained phenomena. The hauntings increase in severity, ending with the possession of Katie and Micah being thrown into the camera. The ending of "Paranormal Activity 2" is an extension of what happens in the moments following the end of "Paranormal Activity," putting the franchise back in order. It's also the most simplistically effective of the series, as the in depth lore is shrouded in mystery. The fears are certainly heightened by knowing the truth of what's going on with Katie and knowing that Tobi has been following her for decades, but the unbridled terror she and Micah express is palpable.

Paranormal Activity 4-7

The events of "Paranormal Activity 4," "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones," and "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension" all move forward in the order of release. "Paranormal Activity 4" is the first sequel to the existing storyline and while the story may seem unrelated to the previous events, the film's connection through the character "Robbie" expands the "PA" mythos, and pushes the Kristi and Katie legacy forward.

"Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" is a spin-off (and arguably the scariest of the bunch), taking place in a Latine village and centered on a family completely unrelated to Kristi/Katie. The supernatural occurrences are related to a group of witches known as The Midwives who have been brainwashing women to give up their firstborn sons to create an army of possessed young men. This storyline, however, directly correlates to the events of "Paranormal Activity 3" and in the film's final moments, brings the film full circle and directly back into "Paranormal Activity."

In what was intended to be the final film in the franchise, "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension" was presented in 3D, and ties up any loose ends from the previous installments. Tobi, The Midwives, Kristi/Katie, and characters from the entire franchise all appear or are referred to in this Christmas horror flick. The film does mark the end of the original storyline, with "Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin" serving as an unrelated reboot of the series. "Next of Kin" follows a documentarian named Margot (Emily Bader) who is searching for her birth mother, who had abandoned her at a hospital shortly after birth. Her investigation brings her to a small Amish community, but one that does not exist by following the teachings of a Christian God, but that of the demonic Asmodeus, aka Tobi. The climax is harrowing and open-ended, leaving the doors wide open for future "Paranormal Activity" films if Blumhouse ever decides to start up the digital cameras once again.