Soccer balls might not be the only things bumping around Akron’s Schneider Park.

There may be things that go bump in the night.

A group of University of Akron students have spent the last few months exploring whether stories or legends of strange or paranormal activity have popped up since another university-sponsored research effort last year uncovered evidence of mass graves in the park.

The earlier research found indications that as many as 380 burial spots might still exist in a section of the park, dating back to when it was part of a larger property home to a sanitarium in the 1800s. There is no evidence of what happened to the scores of patients and indigent residents who are believed to have been buried in the park.

The students were taking part in a for-credit experiential learning class that will share its findings at a presentation called Unearthing the Paranormal: Ghosts of Akron’s Past at 6 p.m. Friday in UA’s Folk Hall Auditorium at 150 E. Exchange St.

The spirited gathering is free and open to the public, hosted by UA’s EXL Center, which also goes by the moniker of the Experiential Learning Center for Entrepreneurship & Civic Engagement.

The 15-acre city park off Mull Avenue was once a swampy corner of a 230-acre farm that surrounded a poorhouse and sanitarium for the disabled, indigent and mentally ill. It is believed that the poor and hospitalized from the sanitarium were buried in mass graves on the property until it closed some 100 years ago.

The students found through their research that conditions were less than ideal in the facility, with evidence of physical and mental abuse and even accusations that one of its doctors sold dead bodies for profit.

Students fanned out in groups to interview those who live near the park, play there or simply live in Akron.

What they found was a pleasant narrative of it being a nice place to walk a dog, hold a T-ball practice or simply lounge rather than the “dark” reality of naked men and women kept in cages squatting in their own filth.

This led the students to believe that the lack of available records of the place or whatever became of its patients was part of a deliberate plan by city fathers to erase or remake the property’s history.

And the fact it changed its name in the early 1900s is further evidence of this, coupled with turning the property into a park as just one more way to shift from something sinister to something quite pleasant.

Instructor Mira Mohsini said 17 students participated in the class that gives anthropology students a taste of researching history and the in-the-field interviewing techniques.

“I was surprised how little is known about the place and its place in this community,” she said.

She too wonders if this cleansing of history, and the really bad things that befell those unfortunate enough to end up there, was deliberate.

“This could be an exercise of community reckoning of what happened on this location,” said the visiting professor and anthropologist.

Looking over historical documents, the students found that patients were demeaned as “idiots” and “things” and even “inmates” at best.

“We’ve constructed this poorhouse and sanitarium narrative to hide that these people were mistreated terribly,” said UA student Hannah Cuckler.

As part of Friday’s event, participants will be invited to participate in a Community Ghost Story Circle and share their own paranormal experiences. There will be ghost-themed activities for young and old. Free parking will be available in Lot 47.

As for whether spirits still haunt the park, some of the people the students interviewed indicated they have felt “uncomfortable,” or had “unsettling feelings” or even “chills” visiting the park. Some complained of mysterious “foggy conditions” there.

And roughly half of the residents interviewed who live nearby said they have experienced “unusual noises” inside their homes or have seen “odd formations” in their yards.

One group of students had their own personal ghostly encounter.

Makayla Enriques, a senior, said one resident invited them to come inside and look around his home. She said the man showed them the attic, where he claims items have mysteriously moved from one side to the other.

He also showed the bedroom where he found a dead raven, and the spots where he’s discovered wadded-up moldy old rock ’n’ roll shirts from the ’70s that did not belong to him.

But the clincher, Enriques said, came when they returned to the classroom to create a transcript of the recorded interview.

“We were interviewing him and as soon as I said, ‘ghost stories’ there’s the voice of a little girl in the background mocking us saying ‘stories, stories,’ ” she said.

There was no girl in the house that they could see at the time, Enriques said.

And while there was a TV on in another room, it was tuned to a sports channel with chatter about an auto race.

“It gave us goosebumps,” she said. “It was chilling to hear.”

Craig Webb, who believes he had a ghostly encounter in Lake Hall at Kent State in the ’80s, can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3547.