In 1692 in fictional Whitewood, Massachusetts, a witch named Elizabeth Selwyn is burned at the stake. Before her death, Selwyn and her accomplice, Jethrow Keane, sold their souls to Lucifer for eternal life and revenge on Whitewood in return for providing the Devil with two yearly virgin human sacrifices on the Hour of Thirteen during Candlemas Eve and the Witches’ Sabbath.
In the present day, following his lecture on witchcraft, a university history professor, Alan Driscoll, advises an interested student named Nan Barlow to visit Whitewood during her vacation to slake her interest in witchcraft by studying Whitewood’s history. Nan settles in The Raven’s Inn, a hotel owned by eccentric Mrs. Newless, becoming acquainted with the only normal-seeming local resident Patricia Russell, who loans her a book on witchcraft. Reading the book, Nan learns that this night is Candlemas Eve.