but I wonder if the concept of experimenting with the supernatural forces as a way to frame presentations was more common back in earlier times?
I wouldnt go as far as to say that the Supernatural was experimented with, since In the not to far distant past, that kind of thing would bring you a whole heap of trouble.
But framing a magical effect with the latest discovery, Electricity, for example, or moving pictures as in the case of devants film to life, was more than common place.
Indeed, it was very popular for a time, to mix genuine scientific demonstrations, with magical effects. You can see many playbills going back roughly 100 years, that offer microscopic entertainments, through the medium of the magic lantern, and the microscope.
Then you have performers like Selbitt, who created his broadcasting a woman Ilusion. I have in my collection, a play bill showing him, performing this very effect under the title " Television"