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The Rainey Traveling Circus boasts the talents of Josie La Tour, a beautiful, famed aerialist, her crazed husband and fellow trapeze artist Flandrin, and her lover, performer Sebastian. The circus is visited by smooth New York police commissioner Thatcher Colt, who is on vacation with his secretary, Miss Kelly. While Colt and Kelly practice their latest fad, lipreading, they view the sideshows, which include a man repelling bullets with the aid of a hidden steel jacket, and a group of thirteen cannibals who play musical instruments that resemble blow pipes. Colt senses that the performers are anxious about something and learns that they dread the next day, Friday the Thirteenth. That night, Flandrin's bloody clothes are found in a wagon, but despite the blood and a bullet hole in the window, no body is found. Rather than thinking that Flandrin is the victim of murder or suicide, Colt believes that he is still alive and planning revenge on his wife and her lover. When the circus reaches the small town of Gideon the next day, there are fourteen cannibal sideshow artists instead of thirteen. Although Josie has received a note warning her not to go to Gideon, she bravely continues with the scheduled evening performance. While Sebastian performs on the trapeze, Flandrin peers down from the top of the tent and tries to unravel his rope. His murder plan is carried out when, during Josie's act, she suddenly collapses and is taken to her room, where she succumbs to the effects of a poisoned dart. Seeing a movement in the top of the tent, Kelly goes outside and is caught by the insane Flandrin, who is disguised as one of the cannibals. Armed with the deadly blow pipe, Flandrin captures Colt, then orders him to leave the tent and send in Sebastian. Kelly communicates a message to Colt via their silent lipreading, after which they leave. Flandrin blows a poisoned dart at Sebastian's shadow when he enters, but the figure rises again immediately. The figure is Colt in Sebastian's clothes, and he is wearing the reflective steel jacket that he and Kelly had seen previously in the sideshow. The jacket was Kelly's idea, which she had conveyed to Colt when he read her lips. Flandrin, realizing he is finished, then goes to the high wire and gives a magnificent performance before deliberately letting go and falling to his death.