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With less than an hour before the state is set to execute convicted killer Joan Alris Ellis, her psychiatrist, Dr. Bergson, thinks back to the time when Joan's psychological deterioration first became apparent to others: At a party held in honor of Joan's recent engagement to Bob Arnold, Joan hears a voice inside her head and faints. Joan's parents and Bob quickly dismiss her fainting spell as a sign of love and attribute it to nervousness about her upcoming wedding, and Bergsen does not know what to make of it. Joan tries to ignore the episode, but the sinister voice, calling itself "Karen," haunts Joan once again and she collapses. Late one night, Joan tries to escape the torment of Karen's voice by wandering through the danger-filled streets of her town, but Karen's voice returns, this time with instructions to leave Bob. Compelled to obey Karen's wishes, Joan leaves a farewell note for her parents and goes to another city, where she changes her name to "Joan Smith" and finds work behind a hotel cigar counter. At work one day, Joan meets an attorney named Eric Russell, who instantly falls in love with her, and they begin dating. Their romance quickly flourishes, but it is brought to an abrupt conclusion when, on a ferryboat ride, Joan loses control of her body, and Karen forces her to kiss Eric passionately. This proves too much for Joan to bear, and she flees in tears to her boardinghouse room. Joan is happy to find Bob waiting there for her to take her back home, but tragedy intervenes when Karen forces Joan to kill Bob with a pair of scissors. Eric acts as Joan's attorney at her trial, and he nearly succeeds in gaining her acquittal until Joan's body is possessed by Karen and she screams "I'm guilty!" Convicted of murder, Joan is placed on death row, but while she awaits her execution, her parents try desperately to persuade Dr. Bergson to help them win a last-minute stay of execution from the governor. Bergson, at first, does not know how he will argue Joan's case, but while interviewing her in her prison cell, he discovers that Joan is suffering from a rare case of dual personality. With only hours to spare, Bergson succeeds in getting the governor to stay Joan's execution so that he can prove that Joan is clinically insane. Joan is then brought into the governor's office, where Bergson hypnotizes her and forces Karen's personality to leave Joan's body forever. When she is awakened from her sleep, Joan convinces the governor that she is completely free of Karen's torment, and her life is spared.