Judge John Hathorne was one of the most vocal participants during the Salem witchcraft trials. Judge Hathorne lived south of the Town House/Salem Courthouse in 1692, on present-day Washington Street, a short walk from home to court.
In late February of 1692, Hathorne may have been one of the “worthy gentlemen of Salem” called to the Parris parsonage in Salem Village to consult on the first afflicted girls’ behavior, agreeing with the others that it was the “hand of the Devil.” From his first questioning of Tituba, during which he attempted to force her to confess to witchcraft (which she finally did under his relentless pressure), to the end of the trials, Hathorne played a starring role in the witchcraft events. He presumed guilt, took a lead in questioning, backed the accusers, believed in the “touch test” and spectral evidence, and was a crucial figure in the execution of 20 innocent individuals. He so firmly believed he was doing the right thing, ridding the colony of the Devil, that he even sent the 4-year-old Dorothy Good to jail. When others began to question the use of spectral evidence, and suggested the Devil could take on anyone’s likeness, Hathorne sternly replied, “not without their consent.”