Before modern times, Europe had actual witch hunts where supposed “beguilers” were burned at the stake for allegedly bewitching others.
Enchantment, charms, and similarly spooky mind control has often been accompanied by panic-mongering in fiction.
William Dean Howells, The Undiscovered Country, an 1880 novel on Spiritualism and its dangers for the mental stability of its fanatical adherents.
Henry James, The Bostonians (1886), whose heroine is viewed as having fallen under the spell of female trance lecturers such as Mrs. Ada T.P. Foat, modeled on the real-life Cora L. V. Scott. The novel illustrates how Spiritualism was adopted by persons involved in late-19th-century reform movements.
Bolesław Prus, Pharaoh, an 1895 historical novel incorporating scenes inspired by Spiritualism.
H.G. Wells, Love and Mr. Lewisham, a novel published in 1900, in which the main character falls in love with a girl whose stepfather claims to be a spirit medium. A large portion of the novel deals with the questionable ethics of some practitioners of the occult. (This novel marked one of the earliest departures from science fiction for Wells—and was a best-seller.)
A key transition from serious occultists writing about supposed occult phenomena to non-serious fiction-merchants writing about anything that could be loosely called “superpowered” is the character of “The Shadow,” commonly called by an alias, “Lamont Cranston.”
Wikipedia claims that one of the first novelizations of “The Shadow” was inspired by the occult fiction story “The House and the Brain.”
Recognizing the demand and responding promptly, circulation manager Henry William Ralston of Street & Smith commissioned Walter B. Gibson to begin writing stories about “The Shadow.” Using the pen name of Maxwell Grant and claiming the stories were “from The Shadow’s private annals as told to” him, Gibson wrote 282 out of 325 tales over the next 20 years: a novel-length story twice a month (1st and 15th). The first story produced was “The Living Shadow”, published April 1, 1931.
Gibson initially fashioned the character as a man with villainous characteristics, who used them to battle crime, and in this was archetypal of the superhero, complete with a stylized imagery, a stylized name, sidekicks, supervillains, and a secret identity. Clad in black, The Shadow operated mainly after dark, burglarizing in the name of justice, and terrifying criminals into vulnerability before he or someone else gunned them down. The character was a film noir antihero in every sense; Gibson himself claimed the literary inspirations were Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s “The House and the Brain”.
Anthony Tollin. “Foreshadowings,” The Shadow #5: The Salamanders and The Black Falcon; February 2007, Nostalgia Ventures.
Tollin, Anthony (June 2006). “Spotlight on The Shadow”. The Shadow #1: the Golden Vulture and Crime Insured (Nostalgia Ventures): 4–5.