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After another in a series of inexplicable, drastic self-mutilations results in the death of a woman, police detective sergeant Dave Kennedy meets with psychiatrist Dr. Philip Hecht. The men wonder what would cause normal, attractive young women to inflict horrible damage to themselves by such actions as shampooing their hair over a lit gas burner, drinking lye or placing their faces into the moving blades of a fan. When Phil suggests that the men discuss the cases further over dinner, Dave admits he has tickets with his girl friend, Marcia Blane, and friend, Dodi Wilson, to a hypnotist's show. That evening, despite Dave's belief that hypnotists are charlatans, he, Marcia and Dodi enjoy the show put on by The Great Desmond, which features a group of men responding to suggestions made to them while under a hypnotic trance. After this display, Desmond's beautiful assistant Justine joins the act and the hypnotist calls for three female volunteers. When Dave indicates his skepticism about the entire process, both Dodi and Marcia volunteer but Justine subtly indicates to Desmond to choose Dodi, who, during the subsequent demonstration, apparently floats in the air under Desmond's hypnotic suggestion. After the show, Dave refuses to believe Dodi when she insists she has no recollection of the experience. As the trio passes a large poster of Desmond outside, Dodi abruptly announces that she must return home and heads off to hail a cab. Unknown to Marcia and Dave, Dodi returns to the theater instead. That night at home, as Dodi prepares for bed, she inexplicably washes her face using a bottle of sulfuric acid waiting near the basin. The next day, Dave and Marcia visit the horribly scarred Dodi in the hospital, where she maintains that she has no memory of her behavior nor of feeling any pain from the acid burn. Later, Marcia and Dave discuss the bizarre event and Marcia speculates hypnosis may have been involved. Dave avers that Dodi was never truly hypnotized during Desmond's act, then points out that the hypnotist has no motive for provoking such behavior. Marcia then decides to attend Desmond's next show where she purposely volunteers, but only pretends to allow herself to be hypnotized. After the show, Marcia meets with Dave and Phil and tells them that onstage Desmond conceals in his hand a ball that looks like an eye with a flashing light. Phil acknowledges that this kind of device is an authentic means of inducing hypnosis in a quick and sometimes dangerous fashion. Marcia then reveals that when Desmond was bringing her out of her pretended trance, he whispered to her to return to the theater at midnight. Dave points out that Dodi did not return to see Desmond, but Phil reminds him that if the command was part of the hypnotic suggestion, Dodi would have no memory of the action. Dave agrees to allow Marcia to see Desmond and assures her that he and Phil will follow her. At midnight, Marcia returns to the theater and goes to Desmond's dressing room, where he catches her unaware and hypnotizes her using the lighted ball. Dave and Phil follow the couple to a nightclub where they watch the entertainment and dance before Desmond takes Marcia to her apartment. Unknown to Dave and Phil, Justine waits in Marcia's apartment and after Desmond leaves, orders the hypnotized Marcia to step into a scalding shower. Meanwhile, Phil encourages Dave to question Marcia about Desmond, and when Dave arrives at her apartment, he interrupts Marcia's shower. Justine pretends to be an acquaintance of Marcia in order to gain time to flee via the fire escape. Dave questions Marcia, but she remains confused and disoriented, repeating Justine's claim that she is a friend. The following day, Dave asks Phil for his advice and the psychiatrist states his belief that Marcia was indeed hypnotized and that her theory about the numerous self-mutilations may be correct. Dave decides to visit all the surviving victims to ask them whether they have ever been hypnotized and if they recognize Desmond or Justine. All of the survivors questioned, including Dodi, insist they have never been hypnotized nor seen Desmond and Justine, which convinces Dave and Phil that the hypnotist is indeed involved in the self-mutilations. Phil suggests hypnotizing Marcia so that she can relive her evening with Desmond, but that night they discover that she is not in her apartment. Realizing it is time for Desmond's evening show, Dave and Phil rush to the theater. In his show, Desmond is leading the audience in a demonstration to illustrate how susceptible to suggestion people are when Dave and Phil arrive, searching for Marcia. Spotting Dave, Justine orders Desmond to stop him with hypnosis, but Dave avoids the lighted ball and leaps on the stage with his gun drawn. Phil follows to tell Dave that Marcia is no longer in her seat. The men notice Justine dragging the dazed Marcia up to a catwalk high over the stage and Dave rushes after them. As the curtain closes on the stage, Phil pleads with Justine not to harm Marcia, but, pulling off a mask, Justine bitterly reveals she hates all beautiful women for she herself is horribly disfigured. Justine orders Desmond to attack Phil, but as he does, Dave shoots the hypnotist from the catwalk. Hysterical when Desmond collapses, Justine throws herself to her death, leaving Marcia dangling on the catwalk until Dave pulls her to safety.