America in the 1890s is a land of dreams for anyone brave enoughand strong enoughto make them come true.
After Francie Wolcott's parents die, leaving her and her genius younger brother, Rooney, penniless, she intends to tour the world with the fortunetelling automaton he built. But first she must bring Rooney to their uncle in San Francisco, where he will have a place to happily tinker and invent things.
With no traveling funds, Francie and Rooney join a traveling carnival heading west, using the automaton as an attraction to pay their way. All goes well at firstuntil a real ghost takes up residence in the automaton. As the fortunes become eerily more accurate, Francie believes real success is finally within her grasp, but the machine's prognostications also implicate the carnival manager, Big Jim, in a murder.
Intent on murdering Francie to keep his secret safe, Jim pursues them across the country to the boomtown of San Francisco. Francie must use her all her wits and skill to stop him if she has any hope of achieving her dream of independence and of protecting her and her brother from Big Jim's clutches.