The title is a play on "Chutes and Ladders," a popular board game for children. This song is about how nursery rhymes often have very dark meanings and contain frightening images. Lead singer Jonathan Davis wrote the lyrics, and is definitely on to something, as many children's songs do have surprisingly nefarious roots
. A brief rundown of some kid's songs he mentions in "Shoots And Ladders":
"Ring Around the Rosie
" - This one is actually innocent, although rumors were that the song was about the black plague ("Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down...").
"London Bridge Is Falling Down
" - There is a real London Bridge that was built in the 1100s. The song is about all the materials used in an effort to keep the bridge standing, and the watchman responsible for keeping thieves from looting it.
"Mary Had A Little Lamb
" - This really is about a a little girl who takes her pet lamb to school. It's one of the few that originated in America, not England.
A song Davis doesn't mention that can really haunt some dreams is "Sing a Song of Sixpence," where a maid gets her nose pecked off. Early versions of the rhyme actually have children being baked into a pie.