Wednesday, 15 May 2013

the Scream House

BARBARIC, UNJUST, SWINDLED and DUPED: just some of the slogans hand-painted on the front of a once-typical terraced house in the Riverside area of Cardiff in Wales. Over the period of several years during my working visits to the City during the early 1990's, I would drop by and photograph what became known locally as 'the scream house'.

At the time, the owner of the house was already a few years into what would eventually become a 17 year-long campaign against the City Council. Over time his lists of grievances - "the nightmare of bureaucracy" he called them - were presented on bold black painted boards, and would become more and more crafted and extensive.  Long written lists would eventually be accompanied by household items like sinks, bicycles or flag poles, and various sculpted objects - and all changing in their wording or their design over the years 

The 'Scream House' inevitably became something of a notorious local landmark, and was hailed by some commentators as an exceptional example of  'outsider art', until in 2005 the Council finally won a court order to have the boards ripped-down from the house.

Here are my original prints which I'd pieced together about twenty years ago to make a bigger picture of the jumble of screaming words. At the time a sympathetic local councillor who had taken up the case of the householder called this particular campaign "a very sad story".  She was right, I'm sure.


UNJUST, 234567



left me to rot
the whole house, front c.1992

house showing man on bicycle and flags, c.1992


  1. Hi Colin (at least that's what I assume your name is),

    Must thank you for putting these pictures up. I've been trying to find out about this house over the past week or so, browsing the internet manically to find out some information. I grew up in Cardiff and was always fascinated when we passed this place. We weren't local enough to know it as 'The Scream House' so I was going in pretty blind. I eventually found an old bbc article on it and that's how I found these incredible photographs, they are more than I could ask for!

    I'm an art student now and was thinking about working around something based on this house. I'd be using these pictures as referencing points, such strong images. Hope you're okay with this, obviously to your full credit.

    I was wondering if you knew any more information about this curious place? Or what drew you to photograph it? I've discovered the guy who lived there was called Gerald Tobin, an irishman, but thats about it. I'm interested in digging out things from the past through the internet see, and figured this was a pretty interesting case.

    Thanks for reading!

    1. I very much appreciate your kind words about these photographs. At the time, I also met and photographed the creator of what became dubbed 'the scream house'. His story was covered both nationally in 'The Guardian', and in the local and community press. I expect that there will also be more information in the Cardiff Council archives, and of course from those who were his neighbours on Clare Street. Good luck with your research.