This probably doesn’t have a factual answer, but bear with me here.
I’d assume everyone knows the loud “mwah ha ha ha” style villian laugh. When did this cliche first pop up in fiction? I don’t mean the quoted section itself, but any over the top crazed laughter that an evil person does when something bad happens.
Has anything been written to suggest that any real life evil people had a maniacal style laugh? Simply saying that they laughed at tragedy wouldn’t be enough to consider it the insane type of laughter this thread is about though.
For a pop culture beginning, I would personally bet that it began with the radio. For instance, The Shadow begins with a rather evil laugh (though by the (shadowy) good guy.)
I don’t recall reading it in fiction except Batman and other comics until modern day. The Joker was introduced in 1940, and The Shadow radio program in 1931, so that works out nicely.
If it existed prior to that, I would personally guess that it would only have been in live performances, rather than fiction. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Punch and Judy or such would have had maniacal laughter, but Commedia dell’arte would most likely have had guffaws not scary laughs as even the bad characters were more comical than scary. Unfortunately I don’t recall whether there was or wasn’t maniacal laughter in the one commedia dell’arte show I saw (by an Italian troupe that supposedly inherited the tradition), but like I said, I don’t believe they did.
I’ve never seen a Punch and Judy performance, so I couldn’t speak for it.