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In a small Eastern town, mortician Ed Guigley informs Sheriff Jim Tyloe of the theft of a child's casket from his funeral parlor. Skeptical about Ed's motives, Jim wonders if the theft is a ruse for Ed to collect an insurance claim. Offended by Jim's accusation, Ed wonders why wealthy Jode Wetherby has scheduled the funeral for his grown daughter Nancy for that night at midnight. When town doctor Rodney Barrett arrives at his nearby office, Jim chastises him for being responsible for the deaths of Nancy and that of her sister Alice. That afternoon, Rod returns to his office despondent over the continued rumors linking him to the Wetherby sisters' deaths as Alice was his wife and Nancy, his sister-in-law. Rod's devoted nurse, Polly Baron, reminds him that the rumors arose because Rod was with attractive young widow Sylvia Stevens, when his wife went into labor. Rod insists the meeting was innocent, then suggests that he and Polly take Rod's three-year-old daughter Marge on a picnic. Rod discovers that Marge is not at home, when longtime Wetherby family assistant Miss Kushins tells him that Marge has gone to spend the day with Sylvia. Believing that Marge may still be with Sylvia, Rod goes to Sylvia's home, but Marge is not there. Alarmed, Rod returns home just as Polly answers a telephone call from a mysterious stranger that causes her to faint. When revived, Polly reveals that the caller has stated that he has just attended Marge's funeral and that she is now with the dead. Distraught, Polly relays that the man claimed Marge was inside a coffin and had only a few hours to live. When Miss Kushins starts to telephone the sheriff, Rod intervenes, insisting that because Jim dislikes him, he will be unhelpful. Miss Kushins wants to inform Jode, but Rod reminds her of the elderly man's weak heart and advises against it. As Rod and Polly leave the house, they find Marge's teddy bear on the porch covered with clay, persuading Rod that Marge may be buried in the town cemetery. As soon as Rod and Polly depart, Miss Kushins hastens next door to inform Jode of Marge's disappearance. Rod and Polly arrive at the cemetery as night falls and dig through several sites of loose dirt without result. When the couple hear strange noises, they hide in an open grave. Moments later, the grave is covered with a tarp by caretaker Hummel. Hearing noises, Hummel grabs his shotgun, uncovers the opening and orders the couple to step out. Just then, Hummel is struck down by an unseen assailant. As Rod examines Hummel, a hand grabs Polly from behind a tombstone. Jode then stumbles out from behind the tomb to admit he attacked Hummel believing that he was Marge's abductor. Jode pleads with Rod to find Marge, all he has left after the death of his beloved but self-destructive daughter Nancy. In flashback both Jode and Rod recall Nancy's attractive, vivacious nature with which she covered her despondency over being blind since birth: Despite visits to European physicians, Nancy's vision cannot be restored and so she lives cavalierly, romancing several men, including Jim, although knowing that he has always loved Alice. On an office visit, Rod confirms Nancy's pregnancy, but refuses her request for an abortion. Nancy will not consider bearing a child who may be blind and soon thereafter dies mysteriously. In the present, Rod tells the others that Hummel is dead and orders Polly to take Jode to his house without reporting the incident to Jim. Rod later telephones Polly to suggest that the mysterious caller's message might mean Marge is in the funeral parlor. Jode insists upon meeting Rod there and helps look inside several caskets without results. As Nancy's funeral approaches, Rod and Polly return to the cemetery where they wonder who might have stolen a casket. Polly suddenly accuses Rod of bringing the dreadful event upon himself by getting involved with the status-conscious Sylvia. In flashback Polly recalls Alice, who had been ordered to bed rest for the duration of her pregnancy, making a surprise visit to Rod's office while Sylvia is consulting with him. Alice pleads to be allowed to get out of bed, but Rod orders her home. That evening when Alice goes into labor, Miss Kushins summons Polly, as Rod cannot be found. At Sylvia's apartment, meanwhile, Rod confesses his gratitude to her for allowing him time to escape the pressure of his work and Alice's confinement. When Rod returns to his office later that night, Jim is waiting to report Marge's birth and Alice's death, then beats Rod savagely. In the present, Polly laments that Rod has allowed Sylvia's influence to corrupt him. Rod angrily accuses Polly of Marge's abduction but the quarrel is interrupted by Jim, who dryly reminds them of Nancy's service. On the way, Polly spots a mausoleum and on impulse wonders if Marge might be there. Inside, she is horrified to find Hummel's body. Jim promises to investigate after the burial. After the service as Rod and the other men begin shoveling dirt onto Nancy's grave, Rod strikes an object that turns out to be a child's coffin. Rod collapses upon opening the coffin and when Jode rushes to look, he suffers a violent heart attack and drops dead. Inside is a gruesome dummy of a partially decomposed child's body. When Rod slowly rises, he is suddenly shot by one of the mourners. Ed then hurls money at Rod and confesses that Rod is behind the fabrication of Marge's abduction. Ed states that Rod offered him money to lie about the theft of the casket and to create the hideous dummy, all as the last part of his plan to gain the Wetherby estate. Jim orders Rod taken to the hospital but insists that they first stop at his office, where he shows Polly the tape recording of the kidnapping message then gives her the key to his rear office. Rod collapses and dies as Polly finds Marge in the office safely asleep.