There was a recent MetaFilter thread on strange rituals, and a poster mentioned the short story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. One of my teachers from high school, Mrs. Holgate, read it to our Form 4 (?) English class, and to this day, I think it's one of the best short stories ever written.
Roald Dahl is another of my favorite short story authors. Until I visited his website, I had forgotten that he had written "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and I didn't know that he wrote "The Witches". I recently watched the movie adaptation starring Anjelica Huston thanks to my trusty TiVo and subscription to HBO.