tonight on "nightline," what bernie said. barbara walters on her revealing prison meeting with notorious ponzi schemer bernie madoff. what he did and told her during a two-hour sitdown. an abc news exclusive. volcano divers. molten lava, liquid rock, bubbling up from the earth's core. our cameras fallow a team of men as they literally lower themselves into the caldron to become the first humans -- >> woo! >> to stand next to the lake of fire. and miracle baby. a mammoth tornado that hurls a pregnant woman 100 feet and a feverish effort to save the child. six months later, we go along for a dramatic homecoming. >> announcer: from the global resources of abc news, with
terry moran, cynthia mcfadden and bill weir in new york city, this is "nightline," october 27th, 2011. >> good evening, i'm terry moran. bernie madoff. he's one of the most infamous criminals in our time. a man who swindled millions of investors and many lost their life savings in the biggest ponzi scheme ever. since he was convicted and sentenced to 150 years in prison in 2009, few outside those prison warms have heard from him -- until now. abc's barbara walters spoke privately with madoff for nearly two hours. barbara, the question people want to know, what is he like? >> reporter: okay, he is in a federal correction center in butner, north carolina. he came in and seemed composed, though once in awhile when things got emotional. he has a tick when he talks. he was wearing khaki pants and a khaki shirt.
you're not allowed to use cameras but you can bring in pen and pad, which is why i could take the notes perfectly. he seemed comfortable there, and that's what surprised me, terry. he's comfortable there. he was the master mind of the biggest ponzi scheme in american history. >> could be one notch biggest fraud cases ever. >> scam of the century. >> reporter: bernie madoff swindled billions from investors. today, he lives in a cell, sentenced to prison for 150 years. i went to his prison in north carolina, two weeks ago. and sat face to face with him for two hours. he told me, surprisingly, that he's happier now than he's been in years, quote, i feel safer here than outside. i know i will die in prison. but i live the last 20 years of my life in fear. now, i have no fear, because i'm no longer in control of my own
life. when i asked him if he missed his old life, he responded, "hell no." may doch acknowledges that he should be punished and he realizes that he destroyed his family. his son mark hung himself last year in his own home. crushed by the betrayal of his father. mark's widow, stephanie, told "20/20's" chris cuomo how she felt about madoff now. >> i hate bernie madoff. if i saw bernie madoff right now, i would tell him that i hold him fully responsible for killing my husband and i'd spit in his face. >> reporter: after that interview, which madoff saw, he wrote me an e-mail. he said he was advised by the prison not to watch but he did anyway and, he said, it was "as painful as i expected. i am guilty of causing my son's death and the unbearable pain i caused stephanie and everyone else." before he went to prison, may
do doff says that during his four months in a new york jail, he con item mramented suicide, but didn't have the courage to do it. but his wife ruth in an interview with "60 minutes" said that the two of them attempted suicide together on christmas eve of 2008. >> i don't know whose idea it was but we decided to kill ourselves because it was -- it was so horrendous what was happening. we had terrible phone calls, hate mail. just beyond anything and i said, i can't -- i just can't go on anymore. we took pills. and woke up the next day. >> what did you take? >> i think ambien. >> how many? >> i don't even remember. i had -- i took what we had. he took more. >> did you leave notes? >> no. it was very impulsive and i'm
glad we woke up. >> reporter: today, madoff, in prison, is in therapy. and he says he's able to compartmentalize what he did. he says he never thinks about suicide now, he's fine by day. but he rarely sleeps and says he has horrible nightmares. i asked him if he was depressed and resaid, "yes. but the fact that i'm functioning troubles me a great deal. you can't do what i've done without guilty." madoff spends his days working in the commissary as what he calls a "glorified bag boy." he makes $170 a month and that's one of the higher paying jobs in the prison. he said everyone "treats me well. the young kids are nice to me. they look up to me for all the wrong reasons." madoff spends his down time in jail raefding books, particularly danielle steele roe mabs novels. when he told ruth that he was reading them, she laughed and said, "don't tell anybody.
most men don't read that." as for his wife, madoff says that after his son's suicide last december, ruth told him, "let me go." he says they have not seen or talked to each other since. and he added, "ruth doesn't hate me. she has no one. it's not fair to her." she had told him that he had it easier in prison, saying, "you are sheltered in there. no one is judging you." and he said that ruth is on an allowance until the final settlement. she shops in the gap, she says, and lives modestly. about his victims, madoff said, quote, "i understand why clients hate me. the gravy train is over. i can live with that. the average person thinks i robbed widows and orphans. i made wealthy people wealthier." he says he takes full responsibility for his crimes, but he ceadded, "nobody put a g to my head. i never planned to do anything wrong. things just got out of hand.
i don't believe i'm a bad guy or stupid." >> not a bad guy, barbara. fascinating. i heard him speak in court when he was sentenced and what struck me is, there was a toughness, a kind of street about madoff. >> by the way, he can make collect calls and he's been recorded. but you have to realize this is a guy who came from very humble beginnings and he said he was deeming with the biggest people in the world, that he was deeming with the biggest banks, that he was so high up, all of this had happened to him, him, you know, who was a nobody. and that's one of the reasons, terry, that it was so hard for him to admit that he was just taking people's money and never investing it that he was really a crook. too hard for him to give it back. >> pride. barbara walters, thank you very much. and just ahead, going to turn the corner. the molten heart of an active volcano. our cameras go on an incredible, rare journey.
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rock from a gaudy soup. it's got a great appeal. but rarely do humans get close. but tonight, however, we meet men who hope to make a living by getting dangerously close to lava, and they think some of you might pay you to join them. here's my co-anchor bill weir. >> reporter: once upon a time, if a volcanic islander wanted life insurance, he'd offer up a human sacrifice to keep the golds happy and the lava calm. behold the modern twist. men who lower themselves into hell as an offering to the gol s s golds of adventure and fame. and what do these men say to those who think they are suicidal loons? >> well, i'm still alive after 20 years. so, i'm stuck on that. >> reporter: his name is geoff mackley. he uses his camera as an excuse to explore the most dangerous
corners of the planet. >> this is mother nature's version of mass destruction. >> reporter: geoff has been obsessed with molten rock since he saw a 1970s documentary on maurice and katia craft, a french couple who spent much of their lives exploring active volcanos. >> it's so powerful and beautiful. so, you just can fall in love with it. >> i would like to die in a volcano. and unfortunately, the probability for me to die on a volcano is quite low, however. because as you know, 92% of people die in bed. >> reporter: maurice got exactly what he wanted when the crafts were swallowed by this eruption in japan 20 years ago. but if this is a cautionary tale, it is lost on mackley. especially since he discovered this volcano on v. he wanted to stand on the shores of its lava lake, where
temperatures reach 1,100 degrees. pure madness. >> a little bit of madness goes a long way. i think people have got too soft in this day and age. very few people out there doing really hard core adventures. >> reporter: but just getting his team and 3,000 pounds of equipment to the rim of the crater is a death-defying task. >> wind is going to be a bastard. >> reporter: the mountain creating its own weather system. gale-force gusts buffet the helicopter. >> put the camera away! >> reporter: but it seems risk is part of the arrangement whenever mackley call. >> we made a really cool video, geoff saw it and five minutes later phoned us up. he goes, you want to jump into a volcano? >> reporter: and these professional climbers responded with an immediate "hell yeah." >> to get a human down on that last lip looking the size of an ant, that's really the ultate shot.
it's the "nat geo" cover shot. >> reporter: but there's days of acid rain and sulfur gases while they wait for a clear spot. they go over their gear -- >> must never be used in an explosive environment. >> reporter: and mackley daydreams about his next adventure. volcano tour ifl. he fight youures there is money made leading the hardy down there. >> well, you're looking at the heartbeat of the earth. the earth's blood. that stuff's coming from the center of the earth. doesn't get anymore than that. i think people will come to see it. >> reporter: finally a tiny window in the weather. but there's only enough time for two to make the trip down. the younger men will go and mackley tripes to hide his
disappointment. >> bit like climbing everest. there's a team of people that sit out. no everyone gets to the top. >> reporter: in their shiny suits, they lower down to a place no man has ever walked. >> eight meters away from the molten lava. >> reporter: the floor of the crater, a scorched hellscape. but they press on. >> lava from the center of the earth! >> reporter: the ground moves constantly, and one wrong move, one errant burst of lava could end their lives. >> this is intense. a whole different world down here. >> reporter: they make the sprint to the edge of the lava lake and plant the flag of their kiwi homeland. >> new zealand flag. this is officially new zealand territory. so, this is the very lip of the lava lake. probably one meter away. a little bit of lava coming out over the top of it.
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the storm's struck with biblical fury, more than 100 tornadoes ripping through the american south six months ago tea. much of the small town of phil campbell, alabama, was leveled. 26 killed there. but there are incredible stories of survival that came out of that day. and here is abc's steve osunsami with one.
>> reporter: on cornelius drive on the 27th of april in phil campbell, alabama, the winds were 210 miles an hour strong. hard to believe anyone could have survived. when mitchell and amanda johns were last here, she was five months pregnant and they were huddled, praying for god to spare them and to spare their unborn child from the tornado that ripped them from their home. >> and the whole entire time, i kept thinking to myself, i need to put myself in fetal position, you know, to at least save my baby. >> reporter: 26 people lost their lives that day, and renee berry, amanda's 52-year-old mother, was one of them. >> i was trying to hold onto him as much as i could, momma held onto me and it took her away. and when she left me, she told me that she loved me and i didn't get to tell her i loved her, too. >> reporter: the family was right in the path of the storm
and when it passed, mitchell was unconscious, after a flying piece of wood pierced the side of his head. amanda was thrown 100 feet, her right foot nearly cut in two and she was in danger of losing her baby. flying debris had punctured her womb, and by the time help came, she was in premature labor. >> immediately told them i was five months pregnant and they done an ultrasound and discovered that i had a hole in my placenta. >> reporter: mitch m was sent off for treatment at another hospital while amanda's desperate doctors sat her in a bed and turned her upside down, hoping to keep the baby from entering this world too soon. after a few long days, she says, their miracle happened. the wound that threatened the baby's life started healing on its own. her labor pains went away. >> you know, and the next thing you know, everything is good. it was just -- it was miraculous. it was wonderful. >> reporter:r: amanda and mitell were reunited in june, and on
september 1st, a very healthy and seven pound baby boy named kaden was born. his parents have a sense of humor and nicknamed him stormy. how do you feel it when people call your son a miracle baby? >> i just feel wonderful. he's our hero, no doubt about it. just keep thinking, you know, what if he was already born? there was just no way that i could have held onto him. >> reporter: today they're still recovering from serious wounds. amanda can barely walk. mitchell can barely see out of his left eye and can hardly move his right hand. tonight, they are living in a donated apartment and still don't know how the money will come, but they told me they're happy. and loving every minute of life with their new son. >> we're doing the best we can. and we have this little baby here to take care of. >> i can be having a bad day and i see him, it's just, i mean, it's over with. he's just a blessing. a blessing, a blessing.
>> reporter: for "nightline," i'm steve osunsami in phil campbell, alabama. >> a blessing. thanks to steve for that. and finally tonight, a look ahead. tomorrow night on "20/20," barbara walters will have a fascinating hour on four people who made billions all from humble beginnings, how big ideas created hugely successful companies and thousands of jobs. among them, this man, the driving force behind cirque du soleil. his latest production is set to the music of michael jackson. ♪ billie jean ♪ is not my lover >> that's tomorrow night on "20/20." thank you for watching abc news. we hope you check in for "good morning america." they're working while you're sleeping. and we're always online at abcnews.co