The man in question is John Hathorne, who was the paternal ancestor of Hawthorne. Hathorne fervently believed in witchcraft, accepted spectral evidence, and played a major role in sentencing some of the accused people to death. Along with Jonathan Corwin, he was responsible for the initial acceptance of the accusations of the young women that started the witch craze. He was almost certainly one of the initial examiners of Tituba, and in the early examinations of Sarah Osborne, he was belligerent and aggressive, taking accusations at face value and essentially functioning as a prosecutor. He was, in short, one of the central figures in the early days of the Salem Witch Trials.