Museum Apologizes For Halloween Subject Line Seen As Racially Insensitive

A Halloween email using the word “spook” in the subject line has resulted in an apology by the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

The episode stands as an object lesson for email marketers revving up their Halloween campaigns.  

The term, seen by many as a racial slur against African-Americans, was included in the subject line: “Party with Spooks,” according to The Houston Chronicle. Museum employees apparently spotted it after the fact. 

Museum president Joel Bartsch told the Chronicle that the intent was to promote the institution’s annual Halloween party. The email newsletter was sent on Thursday went to museum members and individuals in the community.

Bartsch said the word “was meant to be a riff on the word spooky,” the Chronicle reports. The word is synonymous with "ghost." 

It was not clear at deadline whether recipients had complained.

The apology reads as follows: 

"HMNS is committed to diversity and inclusion. We deeply regret that the subject line in this newsletter included a word with an offensive connotation, and sincerely apologize to everyone who received it. We are revisiting our internal policies and editorial review procedures to ensure this does not happen again."


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