In Phoenix, Arizona, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals $40,000 from her employer to marry her boyfriend Sam Loomis (John Gavin), and then tries to flee to Sam's house, in Fairvale, with the money. Along the way, she trades in her car to evade authorities, and during a storm on the trip, she checks into the isolated Bates Motel, not far from Fairvale. The proprietor, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), invites her to dinner at his family house on the hill overlooking the motel. When he leaves to prepare dinner, Marion hears him arguing with his unseen mother, who tells him that she refuses to allow him "bringing in strange, young girls for supper".
Norman brings sandwiches to the motel to eat there instead. The two proceed to have a conversation over dinner, topics ranging from taxidermy to Norman's mother, who he says has been mentally ill since the death of her lover. When Marion suggests that his mother be institutionalized, he becomes very aggressive, saying he wants to do so but does not want to abandon her. He compares his life to being in a "trap," and observes that everyone is in a similar situation. Marion agrees with him, telling him that she "stepped into a private trap back in Phoenix." Afterward, Marion returns to her room, where she resolves to return the money. Norman, who has become intrigued with her, watches her undress through a hole in the wall, obscured by a painting ("The Rape of the Sabine Women"). After Marion counts the money, she takes a shower. During the shower, an anonymous female assailant enters the bathroom and stabs her to death. Back at the house, Norman calls out to his mother: "Mother! Oh, God, mother! Blood! Blood!"
He runs to the motel, where he finds the corpse; he presumes his mother killed Marion, so he tries to erase all traces of the crime to protect her. He puts Marion's body and all her possessions, including money hidden in a newspaper, into the trunk of her car and sinks it in a nearby swamp.
Sam is contacted by...
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