Stanton Carlisle, employed as a carny at a travelling circus watches their freak-show geek - an abject alcoholic, the object of the voyeuristic crowd's gleeful disgust and derision - and wonders how a man could fall so low. There's no way in hell, he vows, that anything like that will ever happen to him. Unlike the tragic figure he sees before him, Stan is young, clever and ambitious and quick to learn from the other carnival acts. Initially teaming up with a beautiful but vulnerable woman as part of a double act in which he mesmerises her, Stan soon leaves his circus days behind him, becoming a successful spiritualist who exploits the weak and the wealthy. But even the very best con men can meet their match.