In 1971, the Perron family, followed by a moving truck, move into a dilapidated, old farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island with their five daughters. The station wagon comes to a stop in front of the house. Getting out is the driver, Roger, a lean man in his early thirties and his wife Carolyn, also early thirties. Hopping out are their five girls, April, Nancy, Christine, Cindy, Andrea, and the family's dog, Sadie. Everyone is excited, except for Andrea, a mixture of raging hormones and adolescence. She takes in her surroundings with a cynical tone.
During the first day, the family moves in smoothly except for the dog. Roger turns to see Sadie standing several feet back, staring in through the open door. There’s a deep intensity behind her dark eyes, her body rigid. Roger's confused. Sadie keeps staring, remains still, and has no intention of getting any closer. Roger lets it go.
The house opens up to a hallway that runs through the middle of the house. A staircase rises up one side. There's the living room and dining room to the left and the kitchen further back. Boxes are everywhere. It’s a bee hive of activity. Two burly movers carefully maneuver furniture in through the front door. Carolyn stands at a counter next to a sink, unpacking kitchenware from a box. Cindy comes in carrying a hand-made wind chime and chain that only a mother could love.
Carolyn tells her there is a hook on the back porch and to tell April to come back inside. Cindy goes outside and secures the wind chime on the hook. She calls to April, who is resting on a massive twisted tree. April has an old toy music box and she activates it. She looks into the mirror and then turns to look behind her...then shrugs and heads back to the house.
That night, the children play a game called hide-and-clap; while playing, one of the daughters finds the boarded up entrance to a cellar.
After Roger inspects the basement with a match, the family goes to bed.
Carolyn expresses concern because the dog is barking outside, and one of the daughters feels someone pulling at her feet.
In the morning, Carolyn wakes up with a mysterious bruise and their dog Sadie, is found dead.
Over the next couple of days, various paranormal activities occur; doors open and close seemingly by themselves and Carolyn hears clapping when nobody is there.
At night, their young daughter Cindy sleepwalks into the eldest daughter's bedroom, where she bangs her head repeatedly against an old wardrobe.
The activity culminates in the eldest daughter being attacked by a spirit that looks like an elderly woman.
Carolyn seeks the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren, noted paranormal investigators, to validate their concerns.
Lorraine senses that a particular malevolent spirit has latched on to the family.
They conduct an initial investigation, and conclude they should get involved, explaining to the Perron family that the house may require an exorcism.
However, this cannot be done without further evidence and authorization from the Catholic Church.
During the process of researching the house's history, Ed and Lorraine find out that the house belonged to an accused witch, Bathsheba.
When Bathsheba's husband caught her sacrificing their week-old infant, she climbed to the top of a tree on the property, cursed all those who would take her land, and proclaimed her love for Satan before committing suicide.
This is followed by reports found of numerous murders and suicides in houses that have since been built upon the property.
Ed and Lorraine return to the house with a police officer, Brad, and another paranormal investigator, Drew.
They set up thermal cameras, and alarm systems throughout the house in an attempt to prove the spirit of Bathsheba is inhabiting the house and receive authorization from the Catholic Church.
The first night, all is quiet until the door to the cellar opens on its own.
Ed, Lorraine, and Brad venture down to the cellar to investigate while recording it. Lorraine senses a presence, then it's gone.
As they had back upstairs, Ed hears a noise, looks at the piano, but nothing else happens. Once upstair, Brad is shaken by watching the door slam shut on its own. He dismisses it as a draft and notices the clock does not stop at 3:07. The next day, they all eat breakfast together and Roger decides to take the girls out for ice cream, but Carolyn is tired and wants take a nap. Ed offers to watch over things while she rests.
Later, Ed joins Lorraine outside, who is tending to laundry. After he returns to the house, the winds kick up so strong, it blows a sheet off the line. As it swoops through the air, it momentarily pauses and forms the shape of person, then flies up to cover Carolyn's bedroom window. Once it falls, Lorraine sees a figure in the window. She races into the house.
Carolyn is taking her nap when finger-shaped bruises forms on her arm. She suddenly rises up, screams, and sees Bathseba face to face. The witch vomits presumably blood into Carolyn's mouth. Lorraine runs to her bedroom, but Carolyn has locked herself in the bathroom, coughing and gagging. A moment later, Carolyn opens the door and explains to Lorraine she just felt nauseous.