Meeting Charles Manson in prison made 'the hair on the back of my neck' stand up, says former ABC News sound man

It was Kenny Kosar's job to place a microphone on the notorious murderer.

March 17, 2017, 7:38 AM

— -- Kenny Kosar will never forget the moment he came face-to-face with notorious murderer Charles Manson.

It was December 1993. At the time, Kosar was working as a sound recordist for a Diane Sawyer interview that was being taped for ABC News at the Corcoran State Prison in California.

“I was working production for ABC News and we were heading off for Corcoran Prison to interview this man,” Kosar told ABC News “20/20.” “The plan was, we would set up the room… and the very last thing to do would be to send me out into the hallway to put a microphone on Charles Manson.”

The infamous jailhouse interview with Manson aired on ABC News a few months later in March 1994.

Chilling, never-before-seen footage from that Sawyer interview will appear in the two-hour ABC News “20/20” special, “Truth and Lies: The Family Manson,” on Friday at 9 p.m. ET.

Manson was the man responsible for a two-day murderous rampage through southern California in August 1969.

Manson himself never carried out any of the killings but commanded a small group of his followers to commit the Aug. 9, 1969, murders of actress Sharon Tate, who was more than eight months pregnant at the time, and Jay Sebring, a hairstylist, heiress Abigail Folger, writer Wojciech Frykowski and teenager Steven Parent, who were at Tate's rental house in Benedict Canyon. Manson also instructed his followers to commit the Aug. 10, 1969, killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca at their home across town.

Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, all members of the Manson “family,” as they came to be known, committed the Tate-LaBianca murders. Leslie Van Housten, another Manson follower, also participated in the LaBianca murders.

Manson and his followers were all convicted on murder charges in 1971 and sentenced to death, but the death sentences were commuted to life sentences when a California Supreme Court ruling abolished capital punishment in 1972.

By the time Sawyer interviewed Manson, he had been in prison for these seven brutal killings for more than 20 years. While on trial in the ‘70s, Manson had cut an “X” into his forehead above the bridge of his nose. When he sat down with Sawyer in ‘93, he had turned the “X” into a swastika.

“He was completely chained up,” Kosar said. “His hands were handcuffed together, chained together, and then they were chained to his waist, and then his feet were chained together as well.”

When Kosar went up to Manson to attach the microphone to his prison shirt, he said Manson looked him right in the eye.

“And he says, ‘Where are you from, boy?’” Kosar said. “And the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

And I said, ‘I’m from Los Angeles, sir,’” he continued. “And he said, ‘Los Angeles, yeah, I’ve been waiting a long time for a bus to come pick me up and take me on back.”

As the crew continued to make adjustments to lights and camera equipment to get started, Manson seemed almost friendly, asking the crew “So you all from New York? Or some guys from L.A. here?” Then Manson caught a glimpse of himself in one of the monitors while he was sitting in the interview chair.

“They don’t have mirrors where I’m at,” he told Sawyer. “Beard’s getting long.”

Chilling, never-before-seen footage from that Sawyer interview will appear in the two-hour ABC News “20/20” special, “Truth and Lies: The Family Manson,” on Friday at 9 p.m. ET.

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