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John Hathaway firs appeared in The Sandman #1 "The Sleep of the Just", he was the senior curator of the Royal Museum. 
 
In 1916 Dr. Hathaway received a telegram in which he found out that his son, Edmund Hathaway has died. The same year, he steals the Magdalene Grimoire from the Royal Museum and gives it to Roderick Burges, head of the Order of Ancient Mysteries. Burges was only lacking of the Magdalene Grimoire to held a spell that would imprison Death, John Hathaway was expecting that if he succed, he could make Death bring his son back.
 
Four years later, in 1920, the Royal Museum makes a stocktaking, revealing the loss of books and manuscripts. Professor John Hathaway comes under suspicion right away. Finally, after being blackmailed for four years, he decides to take his life and writes a suicide note writing down everything he knew about Burges and the Order of Ancient Mysteries; Roderick Burgess is watching this as it happens through a magic artifact and manages to burnt John's suicide note from the distance. John Hathaway had already stabbed himself and dies watching his note burning to ashes.
 
In the begining,  Roderick Burgess is suspect of killing John Hathaway, but he then gets cleared due to lack of evidence and police declares John Hathaway's death as suicide.

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