At a prison, con Pete Tuttle is smoking in the yard when he sees lifer Charles Finnegan come out. Finnegan walks up to a guard on the wall and begs him for permission to leave. The guard orders him back, and Finnegan starts punching the walls. More guards arrive and subdue Finnegan.
In the ward, Dr. Simsich tends to Finnegan, bandaging his hands. When Finnegan hears a plane passing overhead, he sits up. He's well aware that Simsich is the prison psychiatrist, but has no memory of trying to beat his way through the wall. Simsich points out that Finnegan has been in for 30 years for murder and a model prisoner, and Finnegan says that all he does is go about his daily life and sometimes dreams about being on the outside. He finally asks Simsich if he knows Tuttle, and says that he only cares about living when Tuttle makes him feel that he's somewhere that he's not.
That night, Simsich talks to Tuttle. Tuttle explains that he used to do a stage show as a hypnotist. He says that Finnegan is the type who is going around the bend. Tuttle took Finnegan away from the prison, giving him the suggestion that his fists were made of pig iron and he could break through the walls. He warns Simsich that if Finnegan fractures then he'll take half the prison down with him, and figures that he when he gets out in eleven months then he'll do his own hypnosis act. Until then he wants to keep in practice. However, Tuttle says that Finnegan is highly suggestible and offers to demonstrate, figuring SImsich can get a paper out of it.
Simsich has the guards bring Finnegan to his office and Tuttle hypnotizes the old man. Finnegan quickly goes under and Tuttle locks his raised arm in place. He then has Finnegan clasp his hands, ignore the pain, and try to pull them apart but says that he can't. Finnegan can't until Tuttle says he can, and Tuttle puts him back in a trance.
The psychiatrist is unimpressed, and Tuttle gets a cup of water and tells Finnegan that it's boiling hot. He then has Finnegan dip his fingers in it, and Finnegan does so. The lifer moans in pain and Tuttle has Simsich examine Finnegan's fingers. They're covered in burn blisters because Finnegan's mind told him the water was boiling and his body responded. Simsich tells Tuttle to bring Finnegan out of his trance, and Tuttle obliges.
The next day, Simsich talks to the warden. He wants the hypnosis go on under his supervision, and the warden agrees as long as it's in Simsich's office. Tuttle and Finnegan are down in the yard watching a jet pass overhead, and Finnegan admires how fast it's going. He says that it would beautiful to be in one, and stands up and says that he wants to be up there. Finnegan goes to the wall and tells the guard that he has to be out of there, and starts punching the wall again.
That night in the infirmary, Simsich brings Tuttle in to see a sedated Finnegan. Tuttle hypnotizes Finnegan again and has him envision flying the jet. Finnegan smiles and acts out what he imagines doing, making engine noises. The warden arrives and asks what's going on, and Simsich explains that he's doing an experiment in prison psychosis.
Finnegan starts laughing from hypoxia--lack of air--and his face begins blistering as if he were 50,000 feet up. The warden tells Tuttle to end the trance, and Tuttle tells Finnegan to slowly come down. Angry, the warden talks to Simsich outside and tells him to stop the experiments. As Simsich insists that he's uncovering secrets unknown to man, Tuttle calls him back in. The plane Finnegan is in is crashing because he doesn't know how to land it. Tuttle tries to talk him into pulling up, but Finnegan's hair blows back as the g-force tears at his body. There's an explosion, and Simsich and Tuttle realize that Finnegan is dead.
Later, a guard takes Tuttle back to his cell. One prisoner asks Tuttle what happened, and Tuttle says that Finnegan died. When the other man asks how, Tuttle says Finnegan died in a plane crash. The prisoner suggests that Tuttle do his hypnosis act for them, and Tuttle goes to his cell window and looks out at the ambulance as the EMTs take Finnegan's body away. He looks up at the sky and wonders how it feels for Finnegan to be free.