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Many stories feature "espers", or in other words, a person who is capable of mind control, telekinesis, telepathy and all kind of powers related to the mind.

Some examples in comics, movies, books, cartoons, anime and manga are Mob in Mob Psycho 100 (2012), Akira (1982), the Jedi in Star Wars (1977), Jean Grey in X-Men (1963) and Village of the Damned/The Midwich Cuckoos (1960)/(1957).

But for sure there is an earlier one. Which was the first story featuring espers?


Note: I looked for this question since it seemed obvious it should be there, but I couldn't find it. The closest one I've found is this, and it isn't exactly the same Earliest example of mind control failing. If there's one, please post the link to it.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Valorum, Jenayah, TheLethalCarrot, Buzz, FuzzyBoots Mar 22 at 18:19

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    What range of powers are you requiring for this? Do they need to show all of those powers? Some of them? At least one? Does it matter what the source of the powers is? – FuzzyBoots Mar 21 at 14:08
  • @user14111 Not sure it's the same, as a matter of fact, I don't know if the upvoted answer here it's the right answer, none of those examples show telekinesis, do they? Espers can move things with the mind. Can telepaths do that? Charles Xavier from X-men can read minds and control people with the mind but at least in the movie and animated version he can't move things with the mind. That would be an example of a telepath for me. Jean Grey would be a esper in my book – Pablo Mar 21 at 19:12
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    Is the story of a guy beeing able to walk on water and knowing his future days before it happends in the range of espers for you? Or the one about a guy that create a world just by thinking about it in 6 days? – xdtTransform Mar 22 at 13:12
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    This is essentially unanswerable without significant further qualification. Almost all religions have some level of this type of thing in their stories, and it's functionally impossible to say when the ideas originated. – Austin Hemmelgarn Mar 22 at 15:51
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    @AustinHemmelgarn The Sirens from The Odyssey comes to mind, Homeros some 700BC. You'll find pretty much every kind of creature imaginable if you dig deep enough in Greek mythology. – Amarth Mar 22 at 16:03
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Copied from my answer to Q: Who was the first telepath?:

1755: A Voyage to the World in the Centre of the Earth: Giving an Account of the Manners, Customs, Laws, Government, and Religion of the Inhabitants, Their Persons and Habits Described ... : In Which is Introduced, The History of an Inhabitant of the Air, an anonymous booklet published in 1755; an abridged reprint from 1802, titled Bruce's Voyage to Naples, and Journey up Mount Vesuvius, is available at Google Books. It is the tale of a visitor to a utopian civilization inhabiting a 1000-mile-diameter globe inside the Earth. From Bleiler's review:

The humans are longhaired, bearded, and to some extent can read minds and character. They live to extreme old age, two hundred years not being unusual.

From the Google Books scan, p. 11:

"Know, O son of earth! that thou art not the first, by many, that chance has thrown upon our globe, neither is it impossible for us to visit your world: that god whom we truly adore has blessed us with those gifts that you are strangers to. We can, when we please, transport ourselves to your regions; and what surpasses even that, we have the gift of knowing the thoughts of those we converse with. By this means we are much better acquainted with your earthly brethren than you are yourselves, who can judge only by appearances. Often do you clasp that man to your bosom as a friend, who at the same time is your greatest enemy, and only professes friendship, while you have wherewithal to make him welcome; but when that fails, he will not only desert you, but leave you to starve in a dungeon, and pretend he never heard your name. These things, and worse, are common in your world: I have often made an excursion thither myself; and having the gifts I before mentioned, have seen things greatly unworthy of those beings that are, like ourselves, made after the image of our creator. Perhaps at a proper time I may tell you some particulars, but for the present we will confine ourselves to what relates to the world we are now upon, and which is in the centre of your globe."

From pp. 33-34, maybe an instance of telepathy in action:

I rose the next morning as soon as it was light and strolled about the town till breakfast-time; and when I came home, my landlady perceiving the perturbation of my mind, took every method in her power to alleviate my anxiety.

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    "My landlady, perceiving the perturbation of my mind…" doesn't necessarily imply any kind of mindreading. In modern English, it might be rendered as "My landlady noticed that I looked worried". – duskwuff Mar 22 at 18:14
  • @duskwuff I understand that. That's why I said "maybe". – user14111 Mar 22 at 23:27
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One of the earliest stories is the novel The Hampdenshire Wonder by J.D. Beresford, published in 1911. The novel chronicles the life of Victor Scott, who is of superior intelligence and can control people with his mind.

With some further research, came across The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton published in 1871. It's the story of a subterranean race called the Vril-ya, who resemble angels and have the power to channel the energy called Vril using staffs to heal or destroy and had telepathy.

If you're looking for earliest mention of telekinesis, possibly Odd John by Olaf Stapledon, published in 1935, the protagonist, John Wainwright, was able to manipulate matter at an atomic level.

So, Coming Race is probably the earliest mention of mental manipulation of energy and Odd John was the earliest I could find of the mental manipulation of matter.

  • Hmm... Dracula, my first bet, postdates The Coming Race, although it also might not fit what they're looking for, being explicitly supernatural. – FuzzyBoots Mar 21 at 15:27
  • It looks like Bulwer-Lytton was also trying to distinguish Vril from a supernatural agency. From a wikipedia entry on Vril: in a letter to a friend, he compares it to electricity rather than some mysticism. – KenM Mar 21 at 15:45
  • My apologies. I think the Vril-ya answer is fine. :) I was trying to indicate that, even if Dracula weren't newer, it's more explicitly supernatural. – FuzzyBoots Mar 21 at 16:06
  • FuzzyBoots, no apology needed, I got your intent. I thought it was interesting that Bulwer-Lyttton was also looking to make that distinction. I enjoy the dialogue that can happen in the comments section. – KenM Mar 21 at 16:21
  • I was wondering if Bulwer-Lytton was one of the first to make that distinction, of nature vs. supernatural. Then thought of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, published in 1818. – KenM Mar 21 at 17:10
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Satori are Japanese Yōkai with the power to read minds and speak the thoughts back to the person quicker than they can articulate them themselves. Written stories date from the early Edo period (sometime in the 17th century) but the oral tradition is much older.

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From another perspective the first use of the term was James Blish's "Esper" (1952), also published as "Jack of Eagles".

  • As always, I bow to your encyclopedic knowledge. – WhatRoughBeast Mar 23 at 17:03

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