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While making his way across the Arizona desert, a transient Hungarian refugee, Symcha Lipa, accepts a lift from a young woman, Mickey Terry, who drives him to her family's gas station in a ghost town. He is met by Mrs. Terry, a nervous, fidgety woman, and by Mickey's two hostile sisters, the masculine-looking Diz and the child-like, spider-loving Nan, both of whom make sexual overtures to the visitor. After spending the night, Symcha tries to sneak away but is run down by someone driving the family's old black Packard. When he recovers in a small adjacent town, the local sheriff advises him to stay away from the family and tells him of the disappearance of Mickey's fiancé. Despite this warning, Symcha returns to the gas station and accepts a job from Mickey, with whom he falls in love. He hears conflicting stories concerning the family's past and the possible murder of Mr. Terry; he decides to marry Mickey and take her away to San Francisco. Diz becomes incensed at the impending breakup of the family, and at a Halloween party, Symcha is knocked unconscious with a Venus de Milo statue and dragged by Diz and Nan toward the filling station's incinerator. He is saved from cremation when the family bulldog begins howling, and Mickey and Mrs. Terry race to the rescue. As Diz goes insane in her attempt to destroy Symcha, it is revealed that Mrs. Terry is actually Mr. Terry, who has masqueraded as his wife since her murder years ago. Now concerned only with getting Mickey away from her family, Symcha drives off with her as Mr. Terry prepares to poison himself and his two murderous daughters. An enigma remains as to the murderer of Mickey's mother.